Sunday, 28 September 2014

Those lovely Roses

Happy Sunday!

It's almost over and I forgot to post that I'm out guest blogging today at The Roses of Prose. 

Their September theme was FALL... is coming, with many interpretations of this. My contribution is "Falling Crushing Disappointment..."

Pop on over to the Roses blog find out about my 'Falling, crushing disappointment' and that of Brennus in After Whorl: Bran Reborn. Read a fantastic excerpt from #2 of my Celtic Fervour Series.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Time-travel reblog

Happy Saturday to you! 

Please note: This is almost a reblog of the post I've personally written for my slot today at Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog. 


My day is planned out as a mixture of heavy-duty gardening (ie re-doing a patio)  and writing - now that my guest blogging is live at Wranglers. My internet connections are awful, so I'm taking the opportunity now to give you a taste of my thoughts on time-travel writing- in case you don't see it elsewhere.

Time-travel adventure allows for…?


It’s an amazing thing. A dictionary definition of hindsight will give you something like this: - understanding after the fact; retrospection; observation or perception of what was.

In my early teens, I loved reading H.G.Wells’ novel – The Time Machine. Fantasy isn’t my most favourite genre normally, but reading The Time Machine took me back to Victorian Britain and then on to the adventures the time traveller experienced.  With hindsight, I realise I loved the Victorian historical aspects almost as much as I loved the adventures. The couple of film adaptations I’ve seen, based on the book, have been entertaining interpretations – but for me it’s all about the mind-sets of those Victorian characters and about the historical settings of their ‘normal’ time that appeals the most.
More details are to be found here about The Time Machine if you haven't read the novel.

Over the years since that first reading, I’ve read other time- travel novels and realised the amazing variety that has been produced. There are ones which are more firmly in the sci-fi category, where the characters time-travel to other planets on purpose, or set definite courses for other worlds or alternative earths.

There’s currently a plethora of time- shift plots of the Outlander/ Diana Gabaldon type where a character time-slips- and not necessarily because they want to, but because some event makes it happen. In this type of novel, the character must make decisions which will affect their life when they return to their own time. In effect their future will be set according to what they achieve for themselves in their past.

There are the time-slip novels like Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ where the main character, Henry, finds himself popping in and out of his own life, making appearances as a younger or older man, finding his circumstances confusing till he realises where he is in time and with whom. There are many varieties of this parallel time idea.

There are also those where the adventure takes place firmly in a past time where the protagonists are whisked back either to a pre-set time, or to one which is randomly chosen. The time adventurers spend a while, generally with a quest to fulfil, and then return to their own time enriched by their experience but their futures are not dependent on their actions in that past time, because they have generally done nothing to ‘change’ time.

I can't think of any particular example right now, but maybe you can? 

The mechanisms of the time-travelling are fascinating and can vary so much, as can the ultimate purpose of the novels. There are time ‘portals’ in the form of a mirror (there are lots of time- slip romance novels using this mechanism just now), or a wardrobe as in the ‘Narnia’ novels, or a physical vehicle as in Dr. Who’s Tardis or H.G. Wells’ time machine.

I’ve, so far, only written the one time-travel novel for early teens but I’ve really enjoyed being able to have my characters use the value of hindsight in different ways. Whisked back in time to 209 AD, my trio of kids find themselves in an adventure which scares them silly, confuses them, shocks them and makes them alternatively frustrated and desperate. Sometimes these emotions are produced because they feel physically threatened, but often it’s because they feel a huge responsibility- with the benefit of hindsight they know what’s about to occur but have to be so careful of their involvement in that it makes no major changes to the course of history. To fulfil their demanding mission they use hindsight knowledge, facts gained about the era they are plunged into. 

In this type of time-travel novel I’ve really need to have my historical details sharp as the tacks on the hob-nailed Roman sandals of the advancing Legions. 

After my garden slot today I'll be continuing to polish this little guy's armour.

Have a lovely weekend! 



Friday, 26 September 2014

Mystery, thriller or adventure writing?

Deepening the mystery into a thriller…or making it an adventure? 
Friday felicitations to you!

I'm sitting writing at my desk looking out at the sunny aspect through my window. It looks lovely but the wind is sneaking up again and is set to create havoc like it did overnight. A day with afternoon temperatures of 22 Deg Centigrade yesterday was followed by some very strong overnight winds. Strong enough to again blow over that plastic pink house in my garden. Wind was expected, but maybe not so gusty: I certainly was surprised by it. 

And surprise is an element which makes for interesting writing...

Friendly inquirer at a recent book signing/sales event: “Oh, you’re the author? What kind of books do you write?”

That sounds like a perfectly acceptable second question but the answer isn’t always a simple one. Having now completed seven novels, one would think I’d be able to give a quick-fire reply, but the fact is that like many authors I can’t do that.

Three of my stand-alone novels are considered Contemporary Mysteries - two of which have thriller elements. Since they all have romantic aspects, and they have happy ever after endings for the main characters, they can also be considered as Romantic Mysteries, or Mystery Romances.

The three books in my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures have sound historical detail, varying degrees of romance and heavy adventure elements – any mystery threads in these three books are overshadowed by the other aspects.

The time-travel novel for an early teen audience has a sound historical setting and a lot of clues for the reader to unravel, so it’s definitely a Time-Travel Mystery Adventure.

You can maybe now see that a rapid reply to which ‘kind’ of books I write isn’t really possible.

However, the innocent enough question had me thinking about aspects of the novel which make them appropriate for different sub-genres. These are my thoughts on elements which I’ve used in various ways in my novels- though definitely not all in every novel!

Guidelines on the writing of an adventure story, in general, are likely to indicate an author should include elements where a main character will enter into a situation that would not be normal in daily life for him or her. The character will find they are in circumstances which involve danger and probable risk to life as they work through a series of puzzles in order to reach a main goal or achievement, or perhaps are engaged in a drive to explore new places or find new answers to seemingly unanswerable questions. The locations involved are also likely to be somewhat different from what they are used to which can present challenges to the characters as the story progresses. The plot in an adventure story needs a fast pace to keep the reader hooked, balanced out by the development of the main characters which enriches the reader experience. Of course, it’s very possible that other suggestions for an adventure story could be added to that basic list. 

The elements for mystery writing are often summarised as requiring an event that may, or may not, be a crime which has already happened yet which has scant details available for it at the outset. Good mystery writing is plot driven where the reader will have as many chances as the character detectives have, to sift through to the solution - the detectives being amateur or professional sleuths. These ‘chances’ are what will engage a reader and will keep them hooked till the very end. The denouement of the details of the event, fed piece by piece to the reader, is generally thought an important progression with the occasional red- herring added to throw the reader off the scent before a believable solution to the mystery is revealed at the end. In mystery writing, good triumphs over evil. For that to happen the author needs to inject neat doses of both good and evil into the plot. Punishment of the evil villain, to some degree, is generally required at the end. The author of mysteries often chose to have one protagonist which allows them to move onwards from Book 1 into a series - the reader having become drawn to the main character in book 1 and wanting to read more stories about him or her. The mystery genre is very accommodating though, as it’s also possible to have more than one main character.

What of thriller writing- sometimes labelled suspense? Thrillers are about a crime or disaster that is just waiting to happen unless the protagonist can prevent it from occurring. The most important elements of thrillers can vary from author to author. Some may favour the ‘ticking time bomb’ to be their greatest focus where the main characters must resolve some situation within a very short timescale. This can be used to advantage when the action is very condensed in a particular location or series of places in a very short time and which keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. The pace is fast and furious, with lots of action which may include danger or death occurring to some secondary characters- characters which the reader has already been able to empathise with. It may be that the reader knows, or has some suspicion of the villain from the outset of the story. Interweaving scenes giving the villain’s point of view can enhance reader involvement and build up the suspense. A red herring or two is also generally good in thrillers.
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) – one of my contemporary mysteries - is marketed as a mystery thriller. In chronological writing order, this is the second mystery I’ve written which is plot driven around an ancestral family tree.

I loved working out the details of the trees so much that I made the one for Topaz Eyes fairly complicated, drawn to third generation levels, my aim being to keep the reader very engaged with a good number of strong secondary characters. The third generation cousins who are brought together in mysterious circumstances from the outset are requested to solve a family mystery which dates back from present time to the family matriarch of the 1880s.

The reader, like the main character detectives, is presented with scant photographic evidence of what the quest is. Unravelling the details of the mystery involves my main characters travelling to some fabulous world locations, danger and death dogging their footsteps. Who the evil villains of the family are keeps the reader guessing throughout the whole novel- a few of those red- herrings making the reader do some doubting and second guessing. I wanted to write a complicated mystery so I added an extra mystery within the mystery element in Topaz Eyes which can also be considered a treasure hunt. I was delighted when Topaz Eyes became an Award Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2014 Fiction Category.

You might be able to tell by now that I like variety in my reading and in my writing.

What about you? What preferences do you have as a reader? What genres do you feel comfortable writing in as an author?  

ps *Celtic Fervour Series – 3 full length reads for less than £5 on amazon UK and less than $10 from*