Monday, 29 October 2012

A Writer by Nature

In the spirit of this blog, I’m ready to confess to a shocking secret. Brace yourselves. I have 32 published books to my name but…wait for it, have never taken a creative writing course.

There, I’ve said it!

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul and since I’m on a roll, I’ll also admit that I’ve never had a writing buddy, a beta reader, or anyone telling me what does and doesn’t work. My comprehension of the technicalities isn’t all that it could be, either.

A dangling modifier? Sounds like it belongs in erotica.

A misplaced pronoun? If you say so, dear.

But in spite of all that, my books get contracted. I haven’t got anything left in the cupboard looking for a home. How can that possibly be when I’ve just admitted to so many failings?

I have a sneaky theory about that. You see, it all comes down to telling rocking good stories. It’s a gift and one that I’ve been blessed with since childhood. How I wish I hadn’t wasted so many years before taking up my pen. Call me shallow, (most people do), but I’m proud of the way I create my fictional worlds and if they give people pleasure then I reckon I’m doing something right.

 I don’t plot, but start with a premise and let my imagination fly. It works for me! I frequently write 70,000 word books based on nothing more than a few characters names and a vague idea of what they’re going to get up to. They I let them run the show and they never fail to surprise me.

One of the problems I have is distinguishing between words spelled similarly but which say something completely different. Here’re some examples:-

Gray and Grey

Lay and Lie

And my personal worst nightmare – Affect and Effect

Hoard and Horde often catch me unawares

Faint and Feint have a lot to answer for (think feign as in a pretend an attack)

Leaned and Leant are to be avoided at all costs!

Vane (weather) Vain (vanity) and Vein (as in the body) are sneaky little devils if you’re not paying attention.

Brought and Bought were put on this earth to be awkward and I’ll give argument to anyone who says differently!

And so it goes on. No one said the life of a writer isn’t full of pitfalls, ready to catch the unwary. But you know what, I love every second of it and count my blessings at having found an occupation that absorbs me.


Monday, 22 October 2012

The Wit and Wisdom of 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.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Us and Them

 As any self-respecting reader of regency romance will tell you, gentlemen’s clubs have been enthusiastically patronised by the elite in society for centuries. They represented a female-free haven from the stresses and strains of the social season, an environment in which a little male bonding went a long way. What mattered most, and still does, is that they looked after their own. 

Each club epitomised common interests – political, artistic, sporting and military, for example. They were exclusive, sophisticated and seeped in tradition. Most were a collection of several rooms that afforded their members elegant dining, plenty of space to relax and, most importantly of all, gambling—the scourge of the Regency age and beyond.

The most famous club of all is White’s. It started life in 1693 as a public coffee house but after being burned down in 1753, it moved to St. James Street, where it still exists today. Beau Brummel immortalised the place when he sat in the famous bow-windows and passed judgement on the fashion sense of the passing gentry. 
Boodles established itself as a political club but Brooks was far more popular during the Regency years since it was best known for its gambling. Charles Fox is reputed to have played for twenty-two hours straight, losing 11,000 guineas – a fortune. Overcome by debt, he was apparently so popular that his fellow members helped him out.

Two hundred years on and that special bond still exists, (allegedly - I don't wanna get sued here!), between the membership elite. But don't take my word for it. In 1973, when Lord Lucan allegedly killed his nanny in mistake for his wife, the members of his gaming club closed ranks to shield him from the full force of the law. Perhaps they succeeded because he’d never been seen since. Well, not officially anyway, but Lucan spotting is now a national sport, right along there with UFO's and 'who killed Princess Diana'.


Monday, 8 October 2012

Musa Blog Hop

Many thanks to all of you who took the time to stop by and make comments about my novel, Topsin. The winner is - drum roll, please - Yvette.

Congratulations, Yvette, your prize of a copy of Topspin is on its way to you!

I asked for amusing stories about tennis and this is what she said, "I love sports but I have discovered tennis is not for me. I swung the racket like a baseball bat and the ball beamed my partner in the head and gave her a concussion....oops!"

Thanks again for visiting, everyone. Wendy