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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Are you ready for Christmas yet?

Okay, I apologise for the goady title...I am not trying to make you feel guilty for not having all your presents bought and wrapped, mince pies made and in the freezer, cake ready to ice...all that.  Mostly because I am a person who, despite loving Christmas in all its 'tasteless decorations and more food than you can safely eat' glory, waits until approximately the tenth of December before realising that there is nothing to eat in the house, and that tree won't roll itself in glitter...

Anyway.  Yes. Christmas.  So, in an attempt to make myself feel the whole 'Christmas' thing, and perhaps communicate a little Christmassy spirit to everyone else, I have just completed this year's Christmas Novella!  (You may remember last year's 'The Art of Christmas'...)
 Well, this year's novella is called 'The Boys of Christmas'.  I've sort of painted myself into a corner now, with this alphabetical titling thing, I suppose next year's novella will have to be called The Crotch of Christmas, or possibly, if based on personal experience, The Chaos of Christmas, although I find myself now rather liking The Crotch of Christmas and trying to work a story out around it...

So. Let's take our minds off crotches, and focus on boys, shall we?

The Boys of Christmas features Ruby Arden, who is hiding out with her friend Toby, from her emotionally abusive boyfriend. Ruby receives a rather unusual bequest, which takes her and Toby off to a snow-bound village on the Dorset coast, to solve a mystery...
Richard Austin pictures, by the way...
This is Lyme Regis, which isn't a village, but it's on a steep hill - and the village in the novella is very much like this, only much, much smaller.  Well, not smaller, the houses are the same size and everything, but it has a lot less shops in it.
And the scenery is a bit like this...

I used to live not far from Lyme Regis, so it's a town I know well, although I don't think I've ever seen it in the snow. However, living where I do now, in the rural wilds of North Yorkshire, I see a lot of snow, usually from the front.

This novella features such christmassy things as snow, the world's tattiest Christmas tree, carol singers, emergency helicopter food drops and a knitted octopus called Cthulu.  There's also chalk figures cut into a hillside, a pre-prep boys' school, and an Aga of malevolence.

To find out how these all fit together - well, you'll just have to read the book, won't you?

Monday, 24 October 2016


I am often asked by people who want to write a book, how to go about it.  I mean how DO you write a book if you've never written one before? 

You go into Waterstones and pick up those thick paperbacks with the glossy covers and you turn them over and read the author's name and you wonder how the hell they ever did it.  You see them interviewed in newspapers and on TV and they seem like ordinary people, if slightly better dressed and cleaner and with their hair brushed.  So what makes them special, what makes their words worthy of publication and how do you get to be one of Them?  What arcane skill do they have that gets them on TV and in Waterstones and Smiths and on the bestseller lists, and how do you acquire that skill, and can it be done on Saturday afternoons between one and four because that's the only time you have free?

The answers, in order are: nothing, luck and persistence, reading a lot and no, not really.

Writers aren't Special People. I've met lots of them - and, indeed, am rumoured to be one myself - so I know they are just ordinary human beings who worry about getting the hoover fixed and when the car is due its MOT and where that mysterious hole came from.  'If you prick us, do we not bleed?'  Well, yes, we do, but then we make a note in our book about how it felt to be pricked, how much blood there was, and the reaction of the person who did the pricking when we punched them soundly on the nose.

Because the only difference between writers and non-writers?   Writers write things. And if the thing they wrote doesn't get accepted anywhere, they write something else.  And then send that out.  And if that one doesn't get anywhere, they write something else. Or self publish.  What they don't do is sit about telling everyone how they will be published 'one day', when they have time to write something.  Writers don't talk about writing, they do it.  Over and over.  And when they get accepted for publication, they know they are lucky.  Not better, just lucky.  They wrote the thing that person wanted and got it on the right desk at the right time.

And then they go away and do it again.  And again.  They forgo watching TV (well, most of it) and having hobbies because most of them have to go to a day job and write in their spare time, which there isn't much of if you want to watch Emmerdale, Corrie, EastEnders and the Great British Bake Off.  They sometimes have to be reminded to eat, and other times eat nothing but biscuits because they fit in that slot beside the laptop.  They drink tea and coffee to excess, because walking to the toilet is the only exercise they get.  They blink in bright sunlight because they usually don't see much of it.  But they write. 

That's how it's done, I'm afraid.  There's no magic, just bum on seat, fingers on laptop, and keep doing it until it's right. Or as nearly right as we can get it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

In which I meet Sir Tony...yes, really...

Well.  That was a weekend to remember: on Saturday Rhoda Baxter and I did a day of workshops on writing romantic comedy at the Beverley Literary Festival (with many thanks to Beverley Library, where everyone was brilliant, and so efficient that I felt quite out of my depth, and also to Rhoda, who put up with me blundering my way around, getting lost and interrupting and being, quite generally, me).

And then on Sunday, with much trepidation...I donned my disguise and went to York, where Sir Tony, I was most reliably informed, was signing copies of his book.
It's not much of a disguise, but I was clean and presentable, and usually when I'm stalking...I mean, following him, I tend to be wearing less clothes and more shrubbery, so I knew he wouldn't recognise me.  We got one nice picture, where my daughter distracted him by snuggling up, and I managed to sidle in and actually get in the picture...
..and then he recognised me.

..and then, you know, the screaming and the sirens and all that began, and the running away.
But he signed my book.  So that was nice...
But I'm just going to keep my head down for a know, just in case....

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sex. Yep, you read that right. I talk about sex...

I recently had a review for one of my books which went along the lines of  'there wasn't any hot sex in it. I read books for hot sex, so I didn't like this story'.  And this made me a little bit sad, not because the reader didn't like the book - he or she is entirely entitled not to like what I write, but because he (or she) was reading a book sold as 'romance', and therefore obviously equates 'romance' with 'hot sex'.
Hot cocoa. Because I am not putting a picture of hot sex on my blog...
And then I was reading a well known review site, which was trailing some 'forthcoming book offers'.  You know what?  EVERY SINGLE BLURB went along the lines of 'they met, he (or sometimes she) didn't want a relationship (usually for some spurious reason such as a previous ex cheating), but the heat between them was undeniable. Can the way they set fire to the sheets indicate something more serious than a one night stand?'

This made me shake my head a little bit.  You see, when you get to my advanced age, you realise that the ability to have hot sex is absolutely no indicator of a good relationship. Okay, these books are dealing with the beginnings of relationships, where two people are just getting together. It is reassuring to know that the hotness of the sex shows that they are compatible in bed.  But, let's face it, we've all had someone we fancy something terrible, with whom the sex is great, but after a few months, when the hotness of the sex begins to wane, when being groped at every available second has lost its power to enthrall and charm and has become a complete nuisance.  When you want to talk about that leak in the kitchen ceiling or whose turn it is to cook dinner without attempts to fondle your bosom it makes you want to shout THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE!
Very nice dear, but who's doing the washing up?

Many people don't want to read about real life, I suppose.  They want their romantic fiction to be swoony, gorgeous men sweeping women off their feet and into bed.  And this is fine and perfectly normal.  But it's not the kind of fiction that I write. Because I don't find sex very romantic, to be honest. It's nice as part of a romance, but building a whole life on how hot the sex is between a couple just seems a bit...short sighted. Okay, so he can make you swoon in ecstatic ecstacy every night, well that's lovely dear. But does it mean he will stand beside you and hold your hand when you get bad news?  Will he cuddle you on a cold night, and keep you company during your insomnia?  Will he cook dinner and keep the house tidy and look after the animals when you are confined to bed with a vomiting bug that is not the least picturesque?

And often I read books where I think the answer to any of these questions is 'nah'. And that's not romance, that's hormones.