Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter in pastels from almond blossom on the point of flowering, macaroons in the specialist confectioner's shop in Apt, and the purple Judas trees that have burst into blossom on every roadside and terraced hill.

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful day, and thank you for all the lovely supportive comments on this blog while I've been working hard throughout the winter. They are all very much appreciated, even when I don't get round to everyone's blog to say so in person. And now it's spring at last - like the door opening on a party, when you stand at the entrance, still feeling cold, but drawn in to the light and colour and sensing that excitements could be just around the corner.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

On completing a first draft

I’m there. A solid effort since September and I have a pile of paper filled with words for my end-of-March deadline. So how does it feel finally to send off a first draft? Nerve-wracking, that’s how. All those days, weeks and months at the desk trying to piece together a coherent story, trying to find original ways of expressing recognisable emotions and capturing landscapes, having moments of inspiration but mostly just pushing on, and now the result has to be revealed to the first readers.

Though some parts are better than I dared hope, there is also an uneasy feeling that there remain ideas in my head that never quite translated to words on the page. Private battles have yet to be revealed, but will remain unspoken so as not to prejudice a first reaction. The moment of truth will arrive with an email or phone call from my literary agents, whose job is to be brutally honest. I may not agree with all facets of their verdicts, but I know that this honesty is crucial, and also that it will come with the finest of motives: to make my novel the best it can be.

So, for a while, I feel free – like the first days of a long summer holiday when you relish the sense of not having to do anything – but then the ominous space between the date the manuscript was sent and the silence and empty in-box of the present begins to weigh heavier. The story starts to seem ridiculous, clunky, inept. The mind prepares for bad news: any criticism will already be pre-empted; I have already ripped my own work into a thousand shreds and will be able to say that I quite understand, I’d been thinking very much the same thing myself.

I read lots of writers’ blogs, most of which stream in through my Facebook page since I joined a site that puts writers in touch with writers. Many of these writers are young, more than most are American, and the confidence that blares from these pages is quite astounding to me. Good luck to them - I wish I had their self-belief. Older, wider (all that sitting down at the desk…) and bloody-well British about it all, I prefer to keep my trumpet firmly in the back of cupboard until I know there’s a reason to blow it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Sea shells in the mountains

 They say this region was once under the ocean, many millions of years ago, that the rocks were shaped by the tides, and the stones contain the outlines of forgotten sea creatures from the dawn of time. I would say there are days when all history stands still and all the spirits gather.

   You can feel it when the air in the valley is so hot it ripples the horizon. The blue hills rise and fall in waves, a mirage of the sea, and the breezes rush and expire like rollers as they form and collapse on distant shores.

                                                     From The Lantern

The snow last week reminded me that I still hadn't shared a photo I took up in the mountains at Risoul of the frieze above the main entrance of the village church. Hearts and scallop shells - I was intrigued. It also seemed a perfect illustration of what I tried to convey in the passage, quoted here, from my last novel.

A little research, of course, provided the explanation for the shell iconography: the scallop shell represents the baptism in the Christian tradition, and a scallop-shaped dish is often used, to this day, to hold the water that will anoint the head of the baptised. It is also a symbol of pilgrimage, worn round the neck by the faithful on their journey, both for the link with the Church and also, perhaps, for use as a bowl when asking for food.

Readers of earlier posts might remember that is was inside this church that I stumbled across the trail of perfume and holy apparitions.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Ides of March winners

Congratulations to the lucky winners of the great Ides of March book giveaway! They are: Lennette Daniels, Cody Reynolds and Triston Attridge, and they can each expect 17 atmospheric and spine-tingling novels to arrive on their doorstep over the next week or so from both sides of the Atlantic. Cheers - and enjoy!

For those who didn't win this time, you can still check out the list here with a late addition here. I'm sure you'll find some new titles that appeal.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Monet teapot

The Monet teapot in my previous post attracted so many appreciative comments that I thought some of you might like a closer look. I've had it for years and years and always enjoy using it. Quite apart from the impression of waterlilies inspired by the great painter, the handle is very satisfying and it pours like a dream.The colour in the photographs, I have to say, is still not quite as in life: the pot is much more green than blue - you can almost see it on the lid.
It was made by Caroline Bishop in Kent, and just shows what can result when the potter is as talented with a paint brush as with the clay.
Here's another example of her work - a charming small bowl decorated with cherries:

And all her work is signed and glazed on the bottom with a detail from the pattern:

For another glimpse of Caroline Bishop's work and details of how to see more, you can click through on this link: South East Open Studios 2013.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A good day for writing

Now this is just perfect for cracking on...a thick layer of snow. It was still falling when we woke up this morning and there was that silence outside that says no one is going anywhere.

Footsteps on the front steps. All is monochrome outside. Inside, we put the kettle on for a pot of tea and settle down for a cosy and productive day.


Friday, 8 March 2013

The Chanel flower stall

Another week has vanished into the hard graft of writing for an end of March times like this it feels there is no other life. So, as a treat this weekend, I'm going to pop up to London to see the Chanel flower stall at Covent Garden.

The chic white barrow - a nod to the market's past, when it was filled with flowers and fruit at dawn each day - is dressed with giant bottles of Chanel perfume and displays of the flowers whose scents are at the heart of classics such as No. 5 and No. 19, Coco, Coco Noir and Allure. There will be perfume experts on hand to explain how the different fragrances are built up from each flower base, and samples to play around with.

Apparently, there will even be some specially selected posies to buy. The Chanel stall is only there over the weekend (March 8 -10), so get there quick if it appeals. You'll find me swooning over the jasmine - that's the winning combination with rose that makes Chanel No.5 so beguiling.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Ides of March - now 17 books!

Stop Press: the Ides of March book giveaway just got even better with the late addition of a seventeenth book in the prize set, one I know readers here will love:

                 THE MISSING MANUSCRIPT OF JANE AUSTEN by Syrie James
"A novel within a novel honouring what we love most about Austen: her engaging stories, rapier wit, and swoon worthy romance. Pitch perfect, brilliantly crafted." —Austenprose

               from the bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

To be in with a chance, please follow this link to the internet raffle: The Ides of March Book Giveaway.

(I decided not to try to install the "rafflecopter" widget here because it would be too awful to get it wrong and have your entries voided due to my technical incompetence!)

Friday, 1 March 2013

Ides of March Book Giveaway

Romance, trails of fragrance, a sense of history and a special setting, supernatural chills and sparkling twists on well-loved tales - if you love all this and more, here's a chance to win all of these fantastic books in the Ides of March promotion. I'm delighted to be taking part, and special thanks go to Alma Katsu, bestselling author of The Reckoning, for putting it all together.
Sixteen authors have teamed up to offer the following sixteen great books: 
A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years by bestselling novelist M.J. Rose
THE FIREBIRD (ARC) by Susanna Kearsley
A twin-stranded story that blends modern romance with 18th-century Jacobite intrigue, traveling from Scotland to Russia, from the NY Times bestselling author of The Winter Sea
The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist in a breathtaking novel that will thrill readers
from the author of bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
THE MAPMAKER'S WAR by Ronlyn Domingue
A mesmerizing, utterly original adventure about love and loss and the redemptive power of the human spirit--releases March 5th!
THE LANTERN by Deborah Lawrenson
Bestselling modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder—set against the lush backdrop of Provence

GLAMOUR IN GLASS by Mary Robinette Kowal
Glamour in Glass follows the lives of the main characters from Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence

In Regency England, at the dawn of the industrial era, magic and technology clash and the fate of the nation rests in the hands of a penniless young woman
COLD MAGIC by Kate Elliott
An epic adventure fantasy with a decidedly steampunk edge where magic - and the power of the Cold Mages - hold sway

DRACULA IN LOVE by Karen Essex
"If you read only one more vampire novel, let it be this one!" -C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen & The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
RED, WHITE AND BLOOD by Chris Farnsworth
High-octane supernatural thriller, a sequel to The President's Vampire
THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL (ARC) by Carolyn Turgeon
The Fairest of Them All is an inventive, magical fairy-tale mash-up about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White's stepmother, out in August 2013 from the author of Godmother and Mermaid
Combining elements of traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery and historical fiction, Thieftaker will appeal to readers who enjoy intelligent fantasy and history with an attitude

Devil’s Gate is exhilarating urban fantasy, with first class writing and characters that are unforgettable beyond the last page

THE CROOKED BRANCH by Jeanine Cummins
Wonderfully written, with strong, compelling characters, it is a deeply satisfying combination of sweeping historical saga and modern family drama, a gentle reminder of the ever-reaching influence of family”—Booklist

The story of Isabella, Lady Trent, the world's preeminent dragon naturalist,
and her thrilling expedition to Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever

In the tradition of early Anne Rice, a gorgeously written sequel to The Taker that takes readers on a harrowing, passion-fueled chase that transcends the boundaries of time
The contest runs from March 1 - 15 and winner(s) will be notified within 48 hours. We'll give away one set of books per 500 entries. Please note that this contest is open to residents of the US, Canada and the UK only and by entering, you agree to be added to the authors' mailing lists (don't worry; you can always unsubscribe from any mailing list at any time).
 To enter, please follow this link for the Ides of March Book Giveaway - and good luck!

The Next Big Thing revisited

A quick update: The Next Big Thing is still going (you can read my contribution here) and I'm delighted to have been tagged again by Yvonne Osborne who blogs at The Organic Writer from the Great Lakes of the USA.
As well as writing a novel, Yvonne is a poet with a nice line in dry wit - and she loves lighthouses, which resonates with me. You can explore her world, her observations and inspirations, and read all about her Next Big Thing by clicking the link. 

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