Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Alibi in the Archive Part Two

Saturday at Alibi in the Archive was a packed day. Starting with a fresh look at Sherlock Holmes from the inimitable David Stuart Davies, who had played a very convincing murderer in Ann Cleve's murder mystery the evening before, we next whizzed through  the publishing history of Agatha Christie's monumentally successful books - beginning with a three book contract in 1924, from David Brawn, who now looks after the Christie legacy.

I was particularly interested in Martin Edwards' talk on the Detection Club, which began in 1930 as an invitation only dining club for crime authors which is still going strong now, and the Crime Writers' Association, the professional body for crime novelists, begun in 1953 by John Creasey. The weekend was to celebrate the Gladstone Library acquiring the archives of both bodies. If you are interested in the luminaries and forgotten names who were once best sellers in the Golden Age of Crime, I recommend Martin's award winning book, The Golden Age of Murder, the product of years of passionate research, and it shows.

After lunch those with strong stomachs enjoyed Linda Stratmann's look at poisoners, particularly those of the Victorian era, Linda is disturbingly expert on arsenic and other delights! I've blogged before on the crime classics that the British Library is publishing - particularly the wonderful covers, based on vintage travel posters. A talk from Rob Davies from the British Library, provided the background on how the series came about, with a glimpse of what may be to come. After tea we had a look at clerical crime, with Kate Charles - priests, nuns, monks, ministers and rabbis, historical and contemporary, who all combine their calling with a little sleuthing on the side. It fell to Kate Ellis to round off the day with a look at the way past and present supply ideas for novels. Kate was also responsible for the after dinner murder mystery, which was great fun, with the actors getting into the spirit in costume and the whole thing revolving around the discovery of a corpse in a trench at an archaeological dig. I couldn't make up my mind which of two candidates was the culprit - of course I opted for the wrong one!

Sunday morning brought a illuminating and entertaining talk from Stella Duffy, who has taken on the job of finishing a partially completed Ngaio Marsh story - three chapters and some notes, set in New Zealand at the end of World War Two and taking place over the course of a single night. And that night being the midsummer solstice!!! I can't wait to see how she manages it. Her descriptions of researching places in New Zealand that are connected to Marsh, and the locations she may use was fascinating.

Two last sessions looked to the future - for the Crime Classics series and a past and present round up, with all the speakers.

As I've said, it was a really brilliant weekend. So brilliant, in fact, that they are now hoping to repeat it next year.

And if that gallop though the proceeding has whetted your appetite, I have a little surprise. The Library records it's talks, and a number from the weekend are already up on their 'cloud'. If you want to hear more from Martin, Linda, Ann and some of the other speakers, and they were all fabulous, then try this link HERE

You'll need to scroll to find the ones you want. Happy listening.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Gladstone Library and Alibi in the Archives.

I just had a fabulous weekend at the Gladstone Library in Hawarden, North Wales, for what now appears to be the inaugural Alibi In the Archives, weekend - but more of that later.

The Gladstone Library outside
First, the library - a library with rooms which has been on my radar for some while - highly recommended by other writers if you have a book to begin, finish or sort out in the saggy middle, I had a booking for a few days there in late 2014 but had to cancel when life got in the way, so this was my first visit and the chance to check it out. I wasn't actually staying in the guest rooms - they'd filled up before I organised my ticket - so I stayed in a nearby hotel with a day ticket for all the events and food. I have to say the food, surroundings, and general ambiance did not disappoint, and I now have to put a return visit on the bucket list. Whether that will be for a book or the day job  - we'll have to see.

The purpose of the weekend was to mark the  Library giving a home to the archives of the Crime Writers' Association and The Detection Club - a select, invitation only dining club that was begun between the wars and boasted some of the huge names in Golden Age crime fiction. It's still going strong and some of the crime names who are now members are not exactly dusty, either!

The Gladstone Library inside.
The programme focused on Golden Age crime, partly inspired, I think, by the crime classics currently being re-released by the British Library. I've blogged about them before. If you like classic crime and want to explore some authors who were very successful but have now slipped into obscurity, check them out.

The weekend started with some gentle after dinner sleuthing, when participants had the chance to pit their wits against Ann Cleeves, in a particularly devious crime scenario, a murder in a garden next to a large conservatory, enacted by some brave members of the audience and complete with a forensic report. I say it was devious, because I had no idea whodunit. I know who would have if I'd been writing it, but I didn't have a clue on the night. It was a lot of fun and a really good start to the weekend.

Ann was also one of the guest speakers the next day, giving some insights into having both her Vera and Sheltand novels turned in to TV series and talking about the circumstances that led her to chose the all important settings and how the characters developed.

It was a packed weekend and I want to do it justice, so I'm going to stop there. Part 2 next week!

Link to the British Library Shop and the crime classics catalogue. HERE

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Just a walk by the sea

Sometimes you just need some space. On Sunday, after an overcast day, the evening cleared.

I went for a walk and took some pictures. You can't smell the elder flowers blooming in the hedges, or hear the sound of the waves, but the sea and the sky are still blue.

Just a walk by the sea.

Above Jackson's Bay - the beach used by the locals

The island of Steep Holm is just about visible on the horizon
 if you know where to look.

Whitmore Bay - or Barry Island  - the bandstand on the prom.
The Big Wheel in the Fairground


A last view over the beach and the sea

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Taking Snaps in London

On my recent trip to London I did a little research for a book that I really want to write - it's the one that harks back to the war, so it really has to be done soon, or one of the essential characters will be over 100! but it's not fully on the radar yet.  It's a romantic suspense - what I call a treasure hunt book and I know that it is going to feature locations around London, which gives me a chance to go out and prowl around the city in the name of research. 

St Stephen Walbrook
I made a modest start in The City, with one of my favourite churches - St Stephen Walbrook, designed by Wren, which I found by accident many years ago when sheltering from a sudden rain storm. There was a choir practising, and the whole thing sent shivers up the spine.
The other church I wanted to look at was St Mary's Woolnoth - which is a Hawksmoor church - not one I have looked at before, although it is only around the corner, but it has a
particular feature that I want to use. And no, I'm not telling you what that is. 

St Mary Woolnoth

I took pictures of both, which  will be useful when I finally do get the book in my sights. That area of London is dotted with churches, often on sites that have been used for some form of worship for a very long time. Despite being such a busy area, to me it has an underlying spooky feel. And in the evenings and at weekends when the offices are closed and the place is quiet that feeling is accentuated.  But that may just be the novelist in me surfacing. I also wanted to see the ruin of the Temple of Mithras - that one goes back to the Romans - I told you the area had been used for worship for a long time. I couldn't find it - I think it is part of a large construction project on Queen Victoria Street. Hopefully it is and  it will have emerged again by the time I want it - that is for yet another book that is in my head, and partially down on paper.

I'm hoping that taking pictures will store information in the memory banks that the subconscious will use to feed the plots of both novels, as they are still in the planning stage.    

Not the same colour as the one in Dr Who. And not as big. 
Whatever use I make of it, it was a pleasant morning. I also took a picture of an old police telephone box, - not the Dr Who kind, but similar.  I couldn't resist it.  A relic of the days before landline phones were commonplace, let alone mobile phones, and the police needed a way of communicating.  No idea what I might use that for, but maybe something will turn up.   

It's all research. 


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

On the road

Last week was a busy week, and a lot of fun. To London for the RNA Summer Party, at which the 2017 Joan Hessayon winner was announced - sadly not one of the 3 Choc-lit debut authors who were in the line up - but a win for a Welsh publisher! Kate Field was awarded the trophy for The Magic of Ramblings published by Accent.

It was a fab party, I got to stroke the trophy - all the past winners come over a bit 'precious' when in it's presence - it's hard to believe that it is 5 years since I won it!!!

I renewed my card for the British Library - looking forward to spending some time there later in the year, and did a bit of research, book related, not for the day job, but more of that next week.

The lovely Lusana from Choc-lit, sizing up
the room for the best layout 
Then it was down to Southampton for the second Choc lit road-show. An afternoon of talking, quizzes, chocolate and  a lot of laughter at Southampton Library, in the company of an enthusiastic audience of readers and a few hopeful writers who had the chance to pitch a book to Choc-lit as part of the proceedings. And all the attendees got a goodie bag to take away. I did manage to snaffle a bag, but not the contents - and I did sneak some of the chocolates, so that was probably a win:)

Goodie bags and book stall, waiting for the audience. 

I had a lovely time with Jan Brigden, Liv, who is one half of Isabella Conner, and Laura E James. Luckily the audience seemed to enjoy themselves too, so it was was worth the trip. The next show will be up north, Stockton on Tees, as part of their literature festival, and there is a whisper about a date in London in the autumn, If there is, I hope I'll be there. I took a few pictures, so you can get the idea of how it all went.
My fellow panelists
The chance to talk about yourself and your books - what's not to like? And it was good to start doing some book related things again and to tell people about the new summer book that is in the pipeline. coming soon, I hope.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Are you ready for this?

No, it's not a cover reveal, but I did think it was time I told you the title of the new book. As I've said, often, it is not romantic suspense. No dead bodies in this one. (You'll have to wait until Christmas for more of them) It does have a mystery in it, which is what gets the hero and heroine to the Riviera, chasing a couple of crooks. I had in mind all those romantic comedy films from the 40s and 50s  - glamorous settings and sunshine and fantastic scenery and beautiful people and luxurious villas and fast cars. And food. There's quite a bit of that too. It's a summer book. A holiday sort of book and I hope that it's going to be the first of a series. It had to have a holiday type name and after a meeting with my publisher at the London Book Fair, it got one. Very simple, but sums up everything about the book.

So, now, drum roll, please - It's going to be called Summer in San Remo and that's exactly the sort of mood I was after.

And the series title? Ah, now that was suggested by the lovely Kath, from The Nutpress, right here on the blog. The whole series will be  Riviera Rogues. All of them will have a mystery, sunshine and a holiday feel - and the rogues won't all be just the villains. Some of the heroes have a way to go before they win their heroine. Starting with Jake ...

I'm looking forward to a bit of lighthearted fun, in amongst the darker stuff, and I'm already thinking of all the places that can be categorised as 'Riviera'.

Oh, and that cover reveal? It will happen, I promise.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

There's a word for that.

I couldn't find a 'word' picture,
but this one is pretty.
New words. As a writer I'm always curious about those. I used to make up words as a child and had to explain to my puzzled Mum what I was talking about. Now, not so much.

But I am interested when I happen on something new. I'm not talking about those political constructions or the contractions of a person or a couple's name or names- usually involving celebrities - that often seem rather ugly, but the new inventions that can be useful to a writer, usually involving some kind of emotion.

The latest one I've come across is hangry. Which means, apparently, getting irritable because you are hungry. I found it in a book and thought at first it was a misprint, or an attempt to portray some sort of accent, until the context explained it. And then a couple of days later I was in a meeting and someone used it, and I was very pleased that I know what it meant. You can get a lot from book, not just the story.

Another one which I discovered and I've used in a book (which is part written and might some day see the light of day)  is ghosting - ending a relationship by simply fading away without explanation. It fitted exactly what I wanted to convey about the heroine's clearly now ex-boyfriend. The hero who is about to come into her life is a much better bet, even if he does have emotional and physical baggage and the sort of job ... Well, actually, he could end up ghosting her too. But he doesn't. At least I don't think he does. When I finish the book, we'll all find out. But I'm wandering, as usual.

My last new  word isn't that new, but has come to prominence recently because of The Archers. Gaslighting - emotional manipulation to isolate a partner and make them think they are losing it, big time.   It's a concept that's been in my rummage bag of ideas for a while but not surfaced yet. There is one partly ploted that might be classed as a form of gaslighting, so maybe it has surfaced, but not in the conventional form?

Anyway, that is for the future.  By then there will probably be more that I want to get my teeth into.