Thursday, 11 February 2016

Choice Words for February

I enjoy naming my characters, both in my plays and in the novel I'm working on. Some of them come ready-named, introducing themselves to me in a way that they could never be altered. Others take some time to work out. Hartley Keg was one of the former. So was Blessing Hawkes. Cormac Moran, on the other hand, went through several names before finding the right one.

In Naming your characters and settings, Roz Morris discusses the importance of name and how she finds them for her books.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Photo Inspiration for February

It's blustery here today. Storm Imogen is rattling our bones and hurrying us along. I'm sure that most people would prefer to stay indoors if they could, which made me think of this photo.

Hot chocolate and a croissant on a cold, rainy day. 

What does this inspire you to write?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What I'm doing this month - February

January seems to have flashed by in the  blink of a watery eye and suddenly February is here with its promise of spring. I feel like I've spent the month in a curious limbo, coming down after my birthday trip to Venice and reeling at the loss of so many icons.

First, there was David Bowie, such a wonderfully creative man, the brilliant actor Alan Rickman who I'll always remember as an irreverent angel, Glenn Frey from the Eagles, then finally the velvet tones and kindly ways of Terry Wogan. January seems to have left the world a little less colourful.

So February needs to be a new beginning, with fresh colour and creativity, and a renewed intent. That's how I'm treating it. Let's get this year started.


Novel 1 is still away with a handful of literary agents so I'm working on the next two novels. After eight rejections that all had much the same feedback (loved reading this, keep sending it out, but it's not for us), I posed the question to writer Kelly Hashway whether these agents were just being polite or if I actually had something worthwhile. She answered on her blog,

"So this rejection means just what it says. You're doing everything right. You wrote a great book. Now find that agent who loves it as much as you do. He or she is out there somewhere."

You can read the full article here.

Murdering The Text

Along with the work on my novels, I've also been drafting a new murder mystery script which will probably include the most catty dialogue I've written in a while. Always fun to pen.

As usual, I've had plenty of reading copy requests from clients, old and new, as amateur dramatics groups and fundraisers start to organise their diaries.


I've kept to my 2016 reading schedule and finished the first book on my list, Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Next up is Small Kindnesses by Satya Robyn.

Leonard Mutch has just discovered his wife was lying to him for years - but can he bear to uncover the truth?

Leonard and Rose Mutch were happily married for forty years but after her sudden death, Leonard is shocked to find a train ticket in her handbag to a town Rose had never visited. Then a letter arrives from a childhood friend of Rose's, hinting at a past she never told him about.

Reluctantly embarking on an investigation into the life of the woman he thought he knew as well as himself, Leonard is faced with questions that threaten to destroy his happy memories. Why did Rose secretly leave work every Tuesday? Why did she tell lies about her family? And why is their daughter so desperate for him to stop digging into the past?

As his whole life threatens to unravel, Leonard must make an impossible choice - between his memories and a truth he could never have imagined.


After a return to exercise in January, I've stupidly injured my shoulder again. It's nowhere near as bad as the original injury though so February will see me taking plenty of exercise from the waist down (walking) while my shoulder repairs itself. It'll set me in good stead for the autumn when we plan to buy a dog.

A couple of years ago, I gave up sugar (or most of it) when I started a low carb eating plan. Last year, I fell off the wagon though and have felt lousy ever since. February marks my return to cutting sugar from my diet as much as possible. Wish me luck.


So there you have it. My February - my new start. What have you got planned?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 18

January can be such a grey month in so many ways - visually because of the weather and the lack of colour in our gardens, and emotionally due to the, again, weather, anti climax after the festive celebrations and probably the lack of cash until pay day.

I don't really like grey. It's a non colour - not this, not that - a limbo shade that begs for direction. And yet, sometimes, we need that limbo, that pause, that rest. 

Does the colour grey inspire you? What story could come from the concept of grey? 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

My Top 10 Books - The Keepers

My bookshelves are overloaded to the point of collapse with all the reading material my family have collected over the years. With each new purchase, I rearrange them a little. With each house move, I cull a percentage of them but that always makes me want to buy more. My children devour books so quickly that every birthday and Christmas present list includes at least one new book for them.

There are some books though that I will never part with, however full the bookshelves become, because they're tied in with my life journey and soaked with memories. They're keepers.

1. On Writing by Stephen King

As a writer learning the craft, I'm drawn to discovering how successful published authors have arrived at that point in their lives. I don't fare very well with instructive 'how to' books on writing. Sharing a writer's personal journey is the best way for me to learn. I've read several books of this kind but the best I've come across so far has been On Writing by Stephen King.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I came across this book through my studies and it has stayed with me as an example of great writing ever since. More than that, Mary Shelley became an inspiration to me too, not only as a writer, but as a creative pioneer, and an incredibly strong woman.

3. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Along with Stephen King, you'll notice that I mention Gaiman and Pratchett a lot on this blog, so what better book to get my hands on than one that combines the talents of both of those darkly creative minds. A funny, fantasy adventure about the birth of the son of Satan, it throws together angels and demons, witches and witchhunters, and a rather small and friendly hellhound called Dog.

4. The Elusive Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

My copy of The Elusive Pimpernel belonged to my paternal grandmother, Lydia. Her name and the date 4-11-1916 are notated in the front cover. My father was as much a hoarder of books as me, retaining shelves of old leather bound books from his family home. This book is a dramatic, action-packed, swashbuckler of a ride.

5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks

I don't read a lot of non fiction but this one was recommended to me by a friend and colleague many years ago. It discusses a collection of fascinating cases of neurologist Oliver Sacks. Now, that does sound like it could be boring and clinical but Sacks writes of his patients with such great warmth and understanding that you are easily drawn into their lives and experiences.  

6. Neris and India’s Idiot-Proof Diet by India Knight and Neris Thomas

I bet you didn't expect me to include a diet related book in this list, did you? I found this book, completely by accident, at a time in my life when I needed a jolt. Bad health, ill parents and motherhood had all left me rather damaged physically, nothing life threatening, but definitely worse for wear. This book introduced me to the concept of low carb, low sugar, real food eating. I've tried to keep to that way of eating ever since and my health has improved incredibly. Thanks, Neris and India.

7. Complete Works of Shakespeare

As an only child to older parents, I did a lot of reading and was given free rein to read any book in the house. Both of my parents had big, stout collections of Shakespeare's plays which, as a child, I disappeared into for hours, imagining myself as witty Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, or naughty Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare was my first theatrical inspiration.

8. Time and the Conways and Other Plays by J B Priestley

This was a book that I came to through my studies but I'm so pleased I did because it contains two of my favourite plays by Priestley, The Inspector Calls and I Have Been Here Before. I love to read Priestley's dialogue.

9. A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen

Again, I came to this play and this book through my studies and instantly fell in love with the main female character, Nora, a woman struggling with her own identity and society's idea of what she should be. This is a play that I can read over and over again.

10. Curtain by Agatha Christie

My final book is an old battered copy of the final Hercule Poirot novel. This book belonged to my parents but I didn't read it until a couple of years ago. As a murder mystery playwright, I of course have an interest in the genre but especially older writers such as Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins. Curtain has to be my favourite Agatha Christie novel.

So there you have it, my ten keepers that will never leave my bookshelves. What about you? Which books will forever have a home with you?