Monday, 26 December 2011

Is it still a man's world?

Writers of historical fiction talk a lot about the importance of getting the facts right. But do we? Take your average hero, for example. Admiral Lord Nelson. 

Now there’s a man worthy of the accolade in ever I knew of one. And yet he was only five foot six tall. Now that wasn’t considered below average in his day and yet have you ever read a Georgian or Regency romance with a hero that short?

Thought not.

How about an ugly hero, come to that, or one with a squint, male pattern baldness, missing limbs or bad breath. I’ve yet to encounter one. In fact I’ve seldom come across one who doesn’t top six feet, has a muscular physique, a full head of thick hair and thighs that look damned good in tight breeches.
Why is that, do you suppose?

Personally, I reckon us girls ‘invent’ the sort of man we wouldn’t mind bumping into in a dark alley and then just add the features that do it for us. My heroes are always…well, tall dark and handsome. How stereotypical is that? In my own defence, some publishers do kinda insist upon hunky heroes, presumably because romances are predominantly read by woman and they’re supposed to fall in love with the guy.

Which leaves the poor old heroine to take the brunt of any physical shortcomings on offer. I mean, if every single historical romance had a handsome hunk playing the male lead and a drop dead gorgeous female with an hour glass figure sharing the limelight, things would get pretty boring. I’ve read books that feature heroines who are timid, (don’t try that one at home), plain enough to fade into the woodwork, myopic, flat-chested and even disabled. Daphne duMaurier’s wonderful novel The King’s General is a fabulous example of how that can work when handled with skill and sensitivity.

My novel Downsizing features, (brace yourselves), an overweight heroine. It’s a contemporary and tackles the misery of obesity, the scourge of the modern age. I didn’t think twice about casting the heroine in that role but making the male lead a fattie didn’t even cross my mind.

See what I mean? It’s still a man’s world.

Happy New Year everyone.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Seasonal Business

My retired policeman, Charlie Hunter, features in the Hunter Files series published by Carina Press. He lives on his trawler yacht. Could this be how he spends his first Christmas afloat?

Christmas. It was a nightmare time of year when I was in the job. Being a civilian hasn’t changed anything. The season of goodwill brings out the worst in people, and I wanted none of it. I’d declined all invitations and was happy to spend the day alone, doing normal things. I’d have Harry, my son, on Boxing Day. I’d bought him a couple of modest presents—no way could I compete with his step-father, nor did I intend to buy Harry’s affection. I’d give him my time, and take him to Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s fixture with Arsenal. Normal father and son stuff that we’d both enjoy.

Late afternoon on Christmas Eve. I walked Gil, my shaggy mongrel dog, on the rocky beach to the east of the marina, away from the madness of a city gearing up for party night. It was perishing cold, which is why I was surprised when I saw a figure huddled beneath the bluff. I didn’t want to know what a be-suited man was doing there, freezing to death, drinking straight from a bottle of what looked like scotch, but no way could I just ignore him. I guess you can take the man out of the police force but…

“You all right, mate?” I asked.

No answer. How do I get myself into these situations? I sat down next to him but said nothing. Experience had taught me that people can’t handle silences. This guy proved no exception.

“What’s the bloody point of it all?” he asked.

“Hell if I know.”

“Christmas,” he said, waving the bottle of scotch about. “It’s a ruddy circus.”


“Kids were happy with a couple of toys and a tangerine in my day. Now it’s all bloody commercialism, the latest electronic gadgets that no one really needs.” He expelled a long breath. “And don’t get me started on keeping up with the neighbours cos—“

“Not your favourite time of year then?”

“Is it anyone’s?”

“It’s supposed to be a time for families,” I pointed out.

“Christ, my mother-in-law.”

“That bad, eh?”

“The wife wants her to come skiing with us in January. Thinks she’ll look after the kids and give us a bit of freedom.”

“Well, that might—“

“Only trouble is, there’s no skiing holiday this year.” He took another long swig of scotch. “ Just haven’t found a way to tell my wife yet?”

“She doesn’t know?”

“She doesn’t know I lost my job three months ago, either.”

“Where does she think you are all day then?”

“Working for the blood-sucking stockbrokers who fired me.”

I frowned. “So, you had a well-paid job, haven’t told your wife you lost it and she thinks you’re all going off to Switzerland in January.” I paused. “Don’t you think you ought to come clean?”

“How can I? She’ll leave me and take the kids.” Tears streamed down his face. “But I have a plan.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “Oh yeah?”

“I reckon if I get drunk enough, I can just walk into the sea, make it look like an accident and at least she’ll get the life insurance.”

Christmas is peak suicide time. Talking to this bloke, I could see why. “Sounds a bit drastic. Have faith and talk to her. If she loves you she’ll understand.”

“What if she loves her lifestyle more?”

“Isn’t it better to know?”

I thought I’d talked him down but without warning he lurched to his feet and waded into the sea. Cursing, I went after him and tried to pull him clear but determination lent him superhuman strength and he shook me off. I half fell into the freezing water, cursing some more. My feet were now soaked and I’d had about enough of this. Knee deep in water, I caught up with the bloke and aimed a right hook at his chin. Unprepared, his legs folded beneath him like a pack of cards. Catching him and dragging him clear of the sea warmed me a little. I searched his pockets, found his phone and scrolled through until I found his home number. A woman with a pleasant voice answered. I told her where I was and that her husband needed rescuing.

“On my way,” she said, without asking more questions.

By the time she arrived, her husband was just regaining consciousness.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I’ll let him tell you.”

I ought to have left and gone back to the boat before I caught hyperthermia but I was curious to see how she’d react. The whole story came tumbling out and the woman looked appalled. Perhaps she would walk out on him after all.

Then she wrapped her arms round him, tears streaming down her face.

“You idiot,” she said gently. “I can’t believe you kept this all to yourself. Do you really think I care about anything other than you?”

I whistled to the dog and did leave then. Neither of them noticed me go, which suited me just fine.

Perhaps I’d just rediscovered the true spirit of Christmas.

Unfinished Business, the first of the Hunter File mysteries by W. Soliman is now available from Carina Press and all on-line ebook suppliers. For more information about me and my books, and to read the first chapter of Unfinished Business, please visit my website at:

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Happy holidays to you all.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The laws of writing according to Jane Austen

Unpacking my much loved books to store them on my shelves here in Florida, the task took longer than anticipated because I got distracted each time I rediscovered an old favourite. One such was a small tome entitled “The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen”. Flicking through it, I came across extracts from her letters to her niece Anna Austen, written in 1814, offering tips in the novelist’s art.

Listen to this advice about writing what you know:

We think you had better not leave England. Let the Portmans go to Ireland, but as you know nothing of the manners there, you had better not go with them. You will be in danger of giving false representations. Stick to Bath and the Foresters.

On practical plotting:

Your aunt C. does not like desultory novels, and is rather fearful yours will be too much so, that there will be too frequent a change from one set of people to another, and that circumstances will be sometimes introduced of apparent consequence, which will lead to nothing. It will not be so great an objection to me, if it does. I allow much more latitude than she does – and think nature and spirit cover many sins of a wandering story…

On the need for consistency in characterisation:

I like your Susan very much indeed, she is a sweet creature, her playfulness of fancy is very delightful. I like her as she is now exceedingly, but I am not so well satisfied with her behaviour to George R. At first she seemed all over attachment and feeling, and afterwards to have none at all; she is so extremely composed at the Ball, and so well-satisfied apparently with Mr Morgan. She seems to have changed her character.

On finding a situation that works, and the right sort of character-chemistry:

You are now collecting your people delightfully, getting them exactly into such a sport as is the delight of my life; - 3 0r 4 families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on – and I hope you will write a great deal more, and make full use of them whilst they are so very favourably arranged. You are now coming to the heart and beauty of your book…

Not much different to the advice writers get two hundred years on. The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Give me some attitude!

As I writer, I find myself falling back on favourite phrases to describe certain situations, circumstances,  or even when setting scenes. I hate it when I read a book in which the author overuses particular descriptive phrases, and find myself yelling aloud about incompetent copy editors.

With that failing in mind, over the years I've developed my own personal  collection of words and phrases to fit different situations. I have a whole page of expressions, another one for eyes. Yet another is simply headed sexual, covers a multitude of sins - quite literally.

One of my favourites, though, is attitudes. Here's a few of the phrases I've corralled under that heading.

Epicurean complacency

Sardonically amused

Elegantly rumpled - that's a good one. Kind of contradictory, don't you think?

How about - mild derision? I find that one especially useful.

Then there's another old favourite - arrogant assumption of superiority

If you didn't know that I write historical as well as contemporary fiction, I guess that list has given me away.

Anyone got more suggestions to add to my list?


Monday, 21 November 2011

Being Detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure?

Lauren Miller, jailed for embezzlement, survives her sentence by plotting revenge against the man who put her there. Once released, she’s content to bide her time—until a contact is murdered and she becomes the prime suspect.
Nate Black, an American journalist, offers to help Lauren clear her name by trapping the mastermind behind her crimes in a daring sting operation. Thrown together, Lauren and Nate are drawn toward one another and make passionate love. But still, a vital question remains unanswered, driving a wedge between them.
What happened to the money she stole…
Here’s how Lauren reacts to her first sight of Nate.

As she approached the shack, she saw a strange man sitting on her doorstep, reading a book like he had every right in the world to be there. She slowed her pace, her heart hammering in her ears, and did a quick mental revision of the rules. Which one had she infringed this time? Being incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure did that to a person.
Then the anger kicked in. She was free to do as she bloody well pleased, and having strangers foisted upon her did not please her one little bit.
“Who the hell are you,” she demanded belligerently, “and what are you doing on my property?”
The man stood up. He was tall, probably over six foot and well put together with thick brown hair falling across his face, a half-day’s growth of stubble on his chin and intelligent grey eyes. The sort of man a woman would look at twice. Well, any woman except Lauren, perhaps.
“Hi there,” he said, speaking in a soft American drawl. “You must be Lauren.”
Lauren froze. How had an American fetched up in her isolated spot in the forest, and more to the point, how did he know who she was? 
“Not that it’s any of your business, but my name’s Louise,” she said shortly, playing for time whilst she tried to decide what to do.
“Hi, I’m Nate Black.” He took a step toward her and held out his hand, but she ignored it.
“Don’t come any closer.” She could hear the panic in her own voice. He obviously could, too, because he backed off, palms spread outward in a non-hostile gesture. “Right now, just get out of here before I set my dog on you.” Kermit obligingly growled but didn’t move from Lauren’s side.
“Hey, I don’t wanna bother you. I just hoped that we could have a chat. I tried to come and see you inside, but you wouldn’t send me a V.O.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But Lauren could see that she wasn’t fooling him. This guy knew who she was, and she instinctively trusted him. But then she’d instinctively trusted a man before, and look where that had landed her. When it came to men, her instincts weren’t worth diddly-squat. She needed to shut herself away in the shack until this particular one got fed up with being blanked and legged it. Unfortunately, it didn’t look as though it was going to happen any time soon since he was still blocking her path to the door. “Just leave me alone, okay,” she said, trying to sidestep him.
“Look, I’m an investigative journalist, writing a book about miscarriages of justice, and I’d like to talk to you about what happened to you.”
It was pointless continuing to deny her identity, but that didn’t mean she had to talk to him. “There was no miscarriage of justice in my case. I was guilty. I’ve served my time,” she said, thinking that sounded like a line from a bad movie and, against all the odds, feeling a wild giggle building inside her. “I just want to be left alone.”
“I think there was more to it than that.” He smiled at her, and for the first time, Lauren actually considered talking to him. There was just something about him. Something in his expression that made her think he might understand what she’d been through. But no! She had nothing to say to him and made a fresh attempt to reach her door. Once again he blocked her path. “Part of my book will concentrate on women who commit crimes that are out of character, and the forces in their lives that compelled them to do it.”
Lauren stared at him. “Got your insurance up to date, have you?”
He blinked. “Sorry, I’m not with you.”
“Unsubstantiated written allegations are known as libel in the legal world, in case you didn’t know it, and people tend to get sued for that sort of thing.”
“They told me you were smart.”
“Don’t patronise me.”
“Hey, that’s not what I’m doing.” He smiled in an infuriatingly lazy manner that she found strangely disquieting. “And I don’t intend to publish anything that’s libellous. The book’s been commissioned by one of the big American publishing houses, and their legal team will make sure I don’t get carried away and cross that particular line. But, about your situation, you can’t substantiate your allegations about Williams on your own, but perhaps together we could—”  
“How did you know I made any allegations about him?” she asked, her suspicions on high alert. “It was never made public.”
“I’m an investigative journalist,” he said, flashing a set of perfect white teeth, his air of total confidence almost, but not quite, compelling, “and I have sources you can only dream about.”  
“This might upset your delicate male ego, but I really don’t give a damn.”
“You can’t fight powerful institutions on your own, Lauren,” he said. “But with the might of the press behind you, anything’s possible.”
“Just go away,” she said wearily, aware that she’d already said more than she’d intended to.
“Come on, Lauren, what have you got to lose by just chatting to me? I promise I won’t use anything you say without your prior knowledge and consent.”
Lauren rolled her eyes. “And when a man gives me his word, that’s supposed to make me feel better?”
“He really hurt you, didn’t he?”
The compassion in Nate’s eyes almost floored her. She could cope with just about anything life threw at her, expect sympathy.
“Just leave me alone.”
“If it’s any consolation, I know what you’re going through. My mom was thrown in jail back in the States for something she didn’t do. That’s why I gave up my column on the Sunday Inquirer to go and help her out.”
Lauren nodded without realizing she was doing so. She thought he looked vaguely familiar, and now she understood why. He’d written a popular column in the Inquirer for some years, doing exposés on the rich and famous, his picture accompanying his byline. “Did you get her off?” she asked, regretting showing any interest as soon as the words left her mouth.
“Yeah, eventually. The police thought she was an easy target so didn’t bother to look any further.” He paused to cock one eyebrow. “Sound familiar, does it?”
“Just go away and don’t come back. I’ve got nothing to say to you.”

Silver Lining by Wendy Soliman Available now from SirenBookStrand discounted until November 29th to $4.49


Friday, 18 November 2011

Edge of Survival.

Today I'm lucky to have talented author Toni Anderson on my blog, talking about her life, and latest release from Carina Press, Edge of Survival. Over to you,Toni.

Wendy wanted to know a little about my background, and how a girl born and raised in Shropshire ended up in the Canadian prairies. Some days I have no idea.

When I was seventeen I decided to be a helicopter pilot, but apparently being short-sighted and not tall enough to reach the pedals was a problem. Sheesh. What was the RAF thinking?

So, I looked through my UCCA handbook and saw Marine Biology offered at Liverpool University and decided to do that instead. I don’t know why I assumed I’d go to university. I came from a poor working class background, but my elder brother had gone (also to Liverpool) and I was filled with a fierce desire to see the world.

After two years in Liverpool, one year on the Isle of Man, doing Honors, I ended up doing a Ph.D. in St Andrews, Scotland. This was the furthest from home I had ever been. I set off with my mom in my 2CV and instantly fell in love with sunny, windy Fife. I loved Scotland. I LOVE Scotland. I’d go back in a heartbeat. It has such incredible scenery and great people. I met my husband there, had my babies there.

So how did I end up in Canada? It started in 1995 when I did a 3 year Post Doc in Waterloo, Ontario. My husband and I got a taste for Canada but we had to return to Scotland for personal reasons (and we also spent time in Australia but that’s a whole other post). After six years, my hubby was offered a permanent position as a biology professor at the University of Manitoba—about as far from the ocean as possible and both of us Marine Biologists! But a permanent job is not to be sniffed at and we’d really enjoyed living in Canada the first time around, so we once again emigrated across the Atlantic and settled in Winnipeg. 

Winnipeg, Manitoba—or Winterpeg, Mani-snow-ba, as it is otherwise known—was a bit of a shock. I found the vast planes of the prairies strangely oppressive. Give me a beach and waves and I feel free, give me an endless landmass and I feel trapped J. In the winter it’s so cold here that if you don’t plug in your car the engine-block freezes. You get ice crystals on your eyelashes and your nose hairs stick together and pull themselves out when you breathe. When we first arrived I used to drag the kids to school on a sled, I even hooked the dog up with a harness and he’d pull them to school. The coldest it’s ever been (for us) is -53C windchill. That’s counterbalanced by a high of 46C humidex this summer. It’s a crazy seesaw environment of extreme weather with about a week of spring and autumn.

Seven years on, I’m used to the flat landscape and crazy weather. The friendliness of the locals more than makes up for any physical frostiness. The challenges of living in Manitoba have made me a stronger person, more confident of my own abilities, but I’d still go back to Scotland in a heartbeat. That’s why I base so many of my stories there. I love revisiting the land and people. I love smelling the sea, and hearing the waves pound the beach—and at least by writing about it I can pretend.

Thanks for having me here today, Wendy. J It’s been a pleasure.

EDGE OF SURVIVAL (November 2011 from Carina Press)
Foreword by Brenda Novak
Dr. Cameran Young knew her assignment wouldn't be easy. As lead biologist on the Environment Impact Assessment team, her findings would determine the future of a large mining project in the northern Canadian bush. She expected rough conditions and hostile miners—but she didn't expect to find a dead body her first day on the job.
Former SAS Sergeant Daniel Fox forged a career as a helicopter pilot, working as far from the rest of the human race as possible. The thrill of flying makes his civilian life bearable, and he lives by his mantra: don't get involved. But when he's charged with transporting the biologist to her research vessel, he can't help but get involved in the murder investigation—and with Cameran, who awakens emotions he's desperate to suppress.
In the harsh and rugged wilderness, Daniel and Cameran must battle their intense and growing attraction while keeping ahead of a killer who will stop at nothing to silence her…
My heroine has diabetes and I'm donating 15% of my royalties to diabetes research.

Toni Anderson is a former Marine Biologist turned Romantic Suspense writer who now lives in the Canadian prairies with her husband and two children.  Her stories are set in the stunning locations where she’s been lucky enough to live and work—the blustery east coast of Scotland, the remote isolated mining communities of Northern Labrador, the rugged landscapes of the U.S. and Australia. Check out Toni’s website for a list of current titles, her blog and Facebook Author Page for writing news and her personal Facebook page and Twitter for constant nonsensical chatter. She is also part of a wonderful group blog—Not Your Usual Suspects. Come introduce yourself.