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Write What You Know …

…or at least that is advice vaguely handed out to people who claim they want to write. And to a certain extent, it’s probably a good starting point. After all, if someone can’t write convincingly of their immediate surroundings and experiences, they are unlikely to be able to conjure imagined worlds and scenarios. But after a while it’s a very restrictive instruction and will lead more to diary or journal writing than anything more creative. Which leads me neatly on to my own immediate situation – one that in turn has had me search my reading memory for fictional accounts...

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Bookish Joys

Learning to read is one of those rites of passage that, unless it’s a particular struggle, goes unnoticed. And as someone who has never quite mastered numbers in any form, doing her lifelong, level best to avoid their challenge I sympathize hugely if words cause the same barrier as numbers provoke for me. But if reading was simply something that was acquired along with learning to play in the infants playground, make potato prints and sit cross legged for ages at a time, it certainly wasn’t an event attached with bells and whistles and all forms of celebration. Yet the...

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It’s All Starting Over Again …

Spring! And the start of my New Year. January has never felt an appropriate time to mark the end of one year and the start of the next since it seems only the calendar displays any difference. Wake up on January 1st and the day is as short and probably as dark and dank as the day before. Whereas Spring! For anyone connected with the teaching profession, the knowledge that two terms are over and only one remains of the school year – and the only one in which the journey to and from home is taken entirely in the...

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A Poem is Worth a Thousand Words …

I am one of those rare creatures who loves poetry. Who actually sits down and reads it. Perhaps I’m wrong – and I hope I am – but I seldom if ever meet anyone who loves it the way I do. For whom poetry is, indeed, so often worth more than pictures, more than prose. For me, poetry is the most economically form of writing. (not that I can write it, sadly.) After all, there’s no need for a narrative if it’s lyrical verse. There’s no need for characters, structure, developmental progression or all that other stuff that prose writers...

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It was so very different for Jane – and Charlotte, Emily and the rest …

All right. So they had to write their books without access to keyboards. Without the facility to cut and paste a line, a paragraph or even a whole chapter to shift it into a different position to help the narrative flow. And the only convenient clouds they had at their disposal were the ones floating past their respective windows rather than those that would and do, evidently (although the concept eludes me) store their precious prose ad infinitum. Jane Austen, Charlotte, Emily and let’s not forget Anne Bronte, George Eliot – and quite obviously Dickens and the rest – wrote...

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Author Ambassador for MATADOR!

I am thrilled to announce that I have just been appointed one of two Author Ambassadors by my publishers’ MATADOR. This is a new programme that MATADOR is initiating, choosing two of their writers to occupy this post for 12 months. The purpose of an Author Ambassador is to represent the company, to network, connect and share their experiences with prospective authors as well as to generally endorse and communicate the values and aims of Matador. In return, Matador is offering a wide range of support and representation for our own work including a display of our books on their...

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That Loving Feeling …Valentine’s Day and all that

Hearts and flowers and all things romantic tend to divide opinion radically when it comes to literature. Mention the word, ‘romance,’ and many people think immediately of Mills and Boon. Of unlikely handsome heroes and beautiful, loving heroines who will find each other after various obstacles have been conveniently removed from their respective paths and all will end happily ever after. Of course writing a Mills and Boon novel is, in many ways, like writing any novel: it’s hard work, difficult to get right, demanding – and not nearly as easy as it possibly appears to those people who often...

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RECLAMING OUR PASTS

When does the past begin to be interesting to us? I don’t mean history. I am not talking about Tudors and Stuarts and all those wives of Henry V111. Nor that litany of Medieval kings or various wars and battles and disputes: Crimean War, Tolpuddle Martyrs, Corn Laws and Luddites and the like. I’m talking about our own personal histories – the ones handed down to us by previous generations. Because it seems that for years such detail is of no interest to us at all. The lives that our grandparents and great aunts and uncles and their parents lived...

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STREET PARTIES 2022!

When I started planning my third novel, Miller Street SW22, the idea of a unifying street party came to mind early on. I had been involved in three such events and the one that really resonated and propelled the occasion in my novel occurred when I was living in London, not actually in SW22 – which is fictitious and even endless searching through an A to Z will fail to locate – but in Dryburgh Road SW15. The centenary of the road was marked with a highly organised, elaborate event for which the neighbours came together for months beforehand and...

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Goodbye 2021 and All That …

Already, 2021 seems like a distant and unpleasant memory. But perhaps that’s being unfair to a year that, unlike its predecessor, did give us a few gems: The Vaccine. Wimbledon. The Olympics. The Booster. The historians in a few decades ahead will no doubt link the two – the years marred by The Virus. And as for novelists – there’s already a novel out by Jodi Picault that evidently takes the wretched thing as its propelling subject. I was very set against reading it simply because it’s bad enough hearing Covid matter every time you turn to a paper or...

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We Wish You A Very, Merry …

There’s a familiar pattern to the arrival of Christmas cards. At least I find there is. Every year, it’s the same friend whose card arrives early when December is still in single figures. Just as there’s always the one that arrives late, just scraping in by Christmas Eve, with the tang of suggestion that it was only sent after receiving mine … It’s a good way of staying in touch, often the only connection with some people through the year in spite of our mutual scrawled messages about we really must make this the year we meet …. What is...

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Christmas Fairs and all that …

What more ideal gift is there to give than a book? Think of it. It’s easy and satisfying to wrap. It suggests careful thought and consideration. And if signed by the author it is particularly personal to the receiver. All of which, of course, is my unsubtle way of drawing your attention to the fact that this coming weekend I am going to be at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke – 4th and 5th December – as part of their Christmas Fair. Along with two other writers I will be hoping to entice shoppers to buy copies of my novels to...

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