I think many people either love or hate Christmas. But hopefully whatever camp you fall into, you’ll find time to indulge in what makes you happy, be it spending time with loved ones or alternatively doing what you love.
For me there’s plenty to love about Christmas. It’s a time
to slow down and enjoy the school holidays. Anyone else glad that they don’t
have to do lunch boxes?! Not to mention pyjama mornings and the time to write.
As for Christmas morning, what’s on my wish list? The latest
from my favourite authors:
Last week I met up with friend and fellow writer Melissa Morgan
in the beautiful village of Betws y Coed in Snowdonia.
Meeting up with Melissa is always a treat and, as ever, was
never long enough. We covered some wide ranging topics but inevitably came back
to writing so I was in good hands when I raised a dilemma I have with a
character in my current work in progress.
Getting to know characters is a gradual process for both
reader and writer. Like new acquaintances, it takes a certain amount of time
and trust before secrets and private thoughts are revealed but it is essential
that those inner feelings are revealed or how else can we understand and empathise
with the characters and their situations?
The trouble begins when a character is keeping secrets and
the only solution is to ‘dig deep’ into a character’s past and current
predicament. Simply discussing it with a trusted and respected friend who doesn’t
blink twice when I say that my current hero (does sound a bit flighty?!) is
keeping secrets is a treat. Throw in lunch, some beautiful scenery and it made a perfect recipe for wonderful afternoon. Thanks, Melissa!
How many people have been to Paris? A few. I've been lucky
enough to go twice and last week was my third time but it was a completely
different visit to the other two as I went with my husband and daughter. Visiting
somewhere with someone who hasn't been before has a habit of opening your eyes.
As Marcel Proust said, ‘The only real voyage of discovery consists not in
seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’
This visit, I saw Paris through the eyes of my nine year old
The Eiffel Tower is still as tall (I'm scared heights!).
is still as big but the journeys on the Metro became something more as she was
in charge of plotting our train travel. I was able to rewrite some memories with fresh eyes.
Is this why we reread books? Perhaps. It’s certainly why I
read some books more than once, not only to experience that high I know I’ll
get from a particular book but also to find those parts that speak to me on a
new level each time I pick it up.
Some of my favourite books that I've read and reread.
I am currently editing a novel where my heroine works with jewellery. I think it captures the essence of the Presents/Modern line –
glamour and passion contained in both the jewels and the design.
But as with any job, the more I uncover, the more
complicated it becomes. In order to give my book that authentic feel, research
is essential and what a wonderful excuse to research diamonds, rubies and
precious jewels! The hours I could spend in the name of research … !
It’s all very well being appreciative of the art and work
that goes into these pieces, but what about the detail? That’s where it gets
tricky. The internet can only help so far without that inside knowledge that is
particular to the country I'm writing about and there’s nothing like incorrect
details to pull a reader straight out of a story.
So, aware of the saying, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get,’
I set about asking. And who better to ask than Boodles?
Helpful and prompt in
their reply and for that I can only say thank you.
I think Kate Adie’s autobiography summed it up in the title
‘The Kindness of Strangers’. People are more willing to help than we perhaps
initially expect and doesn't that warm your heart?
Last weekend, I was in London at the Romantic Novelists’
Association annual conference. Queen Mary University, Mile End Road played host
to lectures, workshops and the chance to meet up with fellow writers and
experts in the field.
Meeting up with friends and getting to talk shop all weekend was one of the highlights.
That’s how I’d describe writers. I am continually astounded
by my writing friends and colleagues. Never have I before encountered such generous
advice and feedback from people in the same profession – even those writing for
the same romance line as me. Like marathon runners who hug and congratulate
each other at the finish line, writers give each other such encouragement.
So it was with a great sense of anticipation that I met up
with friend and fellow writer Melissa Morgan for lunch in the picturesque town
of Porthmadog. Having someone honest and fair with whom to discuss writing life
and bounce ideas off is a rare gift indeed.
Check out Melissa’s website for another insight into a writer’s life.
A recent visit to Beddgelert in Snowdonia got me thinking.
What is it about a story that is so captivating? But I realised that the answer
was tied up and tangled with another. Why do I write? It’s that desire to take
someone on an all important emotional rollercoaster. And for emotion, the story
of Beddgelert packs a punch. With the unerring loyalty of Gelert and the
consolation that to make mistakes is to be human, the story is as
heart-breaking as it is wonderful.
The wording on the slate ‘headstone’ tells the story.
In the thirteenth century Llywelyn Prince of North Wales had
a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert the faithful
hound who was unaccountably absent. On Llywelyn’s return, the truant, stained
and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The Prince,
alarmed, hastened to find his son and saw the infant’s cot empty, the
bedclothes and floor covered with blood. The frantic father plunged his sword
into the hound’s side thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was
answered by a child’s cry. Llywelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed
but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The Prince,
filled with remorse, is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here.
The spot is called Beddgelert.
Isn't that what writers do all the time, living in their own
little world? Well, sometimes real life can get in the way. So I spent last
weekend on a writers’ retreat in Leeds run by Malaga Workshops. Writing is of
necessity a solitary occupation and the chance to meet with like-minded people
who nodded in understanding was a tonic in itself.
The course tutor was the brilliant and generous Kate Walker. With
63 novels published to date, if she couldn't answer our questions, no-one
I met up with a group of six other writers at Weetwood Hall
in Leeds where we had chance to really concentrate on our writing. Having
submitted work to Kate beforehand, we each had a valuable one to one critique
with her as well as group sessions where we raised questions and offered
suggestions and solutions.
Today sees me beginning revisions on my third novel.
Completing the first draft of any novel is a real milestone and one to be
cherished but the emotional journey on which I've accompanied my characters is
over. Revisions and edits have their
very own joys and challenges. It’s time to take a step back and think about
whether something works and how to make it better, to polish those scenes
so readers can really picture what my characters are up to. Now begins a very different journey.
January – cold, damp and today, windy. What’s to like? How
about beginnings? A new start.
Remember when we were at school and given that new exercise
book? How neat was it at the beginning? That first page was immaculate. But
that’s the thing, isn't it? A new page is full of possibilities. The
possibility to hold something better than the last exercise book, to be better
than last time. Sure, there was a risk involved. What if the first thing I
wrote was a mess? What if I had to cross it out and start again? Even now, that
doubt is strong but now I know that new beginnings hold the promise of progress
and development and change.
So, here’s to new beginnings, to starts, to taking time to
count our blessings. Here’s hoping that 2015 is a great year for us all.