Posted in Writing

Where did February go?

I know that February is a short month, but this year it seems to have flown by.  Life is gradually getting back to normal now we seem to be on top of this current strain of Covid, although, as I discovered when I went to the hairdresser recently, we still need to wear face masks there.  Not a problem as being a hoarder who keeps everything in my bag I still have one squirrelled away there. Going into pubs and restaurants and not having to scan the QR code or wear a mask was something we could only dream of last year.  Now it feels so good to be finally getting back to some semblance of normality.

In contrast to January, February has been a wet and windy month, with Dudley, Eunice and Franklin each taking turns to use the UK as a punch bag, bringing with them rain and record high winds. Our road got off quite lightly – a couple of fences down, a few roof tiles, and in our case, the loss of a TV aerial.  These dark, grey days make me think more and more about the summer months  – warm weather, barbeques, relaxing in the garden with wine and trips to the coast.  This year we are spending our holidays in the UK with staycations in Suffolk, the North West (Lake District and Yorkshire Dales) and, of course, Cornwall.  In between there’s an opportunity for days out and, of course, there are our daily walks, which began when I was discharged from hospital in March 2020. 

I’ve never been a regular walker. Maybe if we had owned a dog there would have been an incentive to pull on boots and get out into the fresh air. However, after major surgery and five days in hospital, I knew I needed to do something to get myself  back to a decent level of health and fitness.  Although keyhole surgery was a godsend and helped the recovery process, I was still weak and for the first couple of days simply ate, read or watched TV.  My post op diet in hospital consisted mainly of pasta and rice pudding as they attempted to coax my digestive system back to normal. On on third day home, I knew it was time to stop being a couch potato and do something positive. Living on a hill gave me a challenge before I had even got out of the front door. On that first attempt, by the time I got to the top of the road I felt as if I had run a marathon. But the gauntlet had been thrown down and if there’s anything I love, it’s a challenge. The next day I managed another two or three hundred yards. Each day after that, I extended the walk, and a fortnight later could managed a substantial around the block walk. Spring 2020 brought with it some really good weather which saw me and my OH out every day, making the most of the wonderful open countryside which is only five minutes walk from home.   

Currently we walk an hour each day, usually in the late afternoon, although I find mornings are less disruptive. If I can get out at, say 10.30, then prepare lunch, it gives me the whole of the afternoon to write.  And, of course, each walk gives me time to think about where I am with my WIP and how best to move on from where I finished the day before.  The current book, which is in two parts – set between six years ago and present day – is nudging 50,000 words and I have four more scenes before I reach the end of part one. I’m hoping part two will take me through to mid-April and then I’ll slip on my editing hat and the fun begins!

 

SOME OF OUR REGULAR WALKS

And finally, my book reads for February. I’ve given all of these four stars and I’ve posted reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

So that’s all for now. See you in March, which is a month usually associated with the little chap below.

Best wishes,

Jo

Posted in Writing

JANUARY UPDATE…

I’m writing my January update on a bright, sunny morning. We’ve had a few days of grey and now to be greeted by a day of brilliant sunshine is a bonus. They have been few and far between during these winter months.

January is my least favourite month of the year. After all the buzz of activity leading up to the Festive Season, and this year the ability to see friends and family beyond the Covid allocated ‘bubble’ of last year, January has predictably been a flat month.   This year, however, I’ve looked beyond those first thirty one days of 2022. Instead, I’ve booked two holidays, been working on my latest novel and generally been looking forward.  Okay we still have Covid, something that’s going to be with us for a good while yet, and I still have two more years of post-cancer monitoring, but generally life is good. I can’t complain.

This week we were at our first live music concert since 2019.  Singer/songwriter Paul Carrack, who has been with bands like Ace, Squeeze and latterly Mike and the Mechanics, kicked off his UK tour here in Bath.  We had previously booked to see him in early 2021, but Covid and lockdown saw the tour cancelled and rescheduled for August.  Sadly that was cancelled too.  We crossed fingers when the January date was announced and although there was not a full house that night, those who attended proved an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.  He performed many of his hits, together with tracks from his new album, which was written during lockdown.   

 Currently my writing is going well.  The new book is in two parts – Present day and six years previously.  I’m about two thirds of the way through the ‘past’ section, which is narrated by my main female character.  I hope to finish this by mid-Feb then edit and move on to part two, which will be written from the third person.  The characters are behaving themselves for a change which means I’m making good progress. Watch this space!

And finally, my January reads.  2022 has begun with a great selection of books, all four and five star reviews.  I usually prefer psychological thrillers but having read all of Lorna Cook’s novels, I couldn’t resist adding her latest to my list. And I’m glad I did. Once again she has produced an amazing read set in Paris during WWII and present day. 

 

So that’s all for now. Back next month.

Best wishes

Jo

Posted in Writing

JANUARY 7TH: IT’S PUBLICATION DAY FOR THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by WENDY DRANFIELD

Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…

Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.

Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.

Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?

The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?

And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?

As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?

A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you racing through and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and Teresa Driscoll, it will keep you up reading all night long!

Available on amazon, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Amazon link: http://viewbook.at/TheBirthdayParty

About the author

Wendy is a former coroner’s assistant turned crime writer who lives with her husband and 3 rescue cats.

Her first novel (The Girl Who Died, 2015) was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition. Since then she has written two crime series – the latest follows Detective Madison Harper as she tries to reclaim her life after spending six years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. Books 4 and 5 in this series will be published in 2022, along with the standalone crime thriller The Birthday Party.

Wendy is very active on social media, with updates about her books, her characters and her cats! You’ll find her here:

Website: https://wendydranfield.co.uk/

Twitter: @WendyDranfield

Facebook: Wendy Dranfield Author

Pinterest: Wendy Dranfield

Instagram: Wendy Dranfield Author

MY REVIEW

Wendy has given her Madison Harper series a rest and written a standalone psychological thriller. Set in the town of Maple Creek, it is an absorbing read which slowly unwraps secrets and lies within a well-heeled family.  A five-year-old child goes missing at a birthday party.  Who could have taken her and why? It is a parent’s worse nightmare. But scratch the surface and there are things about the feted Hamilton family the locals in Maple Creek know nothing about. The disappearance of Kathy Hamilton’s daughter Charlotte (Charley) is about to change all that, bringing some unwanted intrusions into the life of controlling matriarch Connie Hamilton.

Everyone is a suspect and detective Chase Cooper is caught in a race against time – tracking down the little girl’s abductor and locating her as soon as possible.

A worthy five star read…

My thanks to Wendy Dranfield, Bookouture and Netgalley for an ARC of The Birthday Party in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Writing

DECEMBER CATCH UP…

Well, here we are, at the end 2021, and how quickly the time has gone.  It’s been a mixed year. A tenth novel completed and published and 77 books read and reviewed on my Goodreads Challenge, nearly double the 44 I had originally set up to complete.  I’m a bit of a book junkie. I belong to Netgalley where I’m able to request and read advanced review copies of the latest offerings from authors.  I am also auto-approved by Bookouture, which means I can choose titles and have them automatically delivered to my Kindle without having to request them first.  I’ve always been a lover of romance, sagas and historical fiction.  Now another genre has been added: psychological thrillers and Bookouture authors write some of the best.

Back home in my own writer’s den, I’m currently working on book three of my Cornish trilogy.  This time my main character is the daughter of a hotelier. Yes, I know, we’ve been there before with A Cornish Affair, only this time the hotel in question is not situated on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic. Instead it overlooks the harbourside in Kingswater, the fictitious Cornish estuary town where the trilogy is based.  Hayley Young, who was a friend of Ava Warren, the central character who narrates Shadows on the Water, now has her own story. Although Hayley appeared in both Shadows and A Kingswater Summer, all readers knew about her was that she was a young single mother with a small daughter and worked with Ava.  I gave very little detail about her background. I guess this was a good move, as it has enabled me to  start with a blank sheet and an opportunity to create something completely new. I’m 15,000 words in, not that far along a road which will probably reach 80,000 – 100,000, but so far it’s going well.  I plan to really get my head down next month, once Christmas and the New Year are out of the way, with a first draft finish by end February.  Then the hard work begins.

With so much going on in December, I’ve cut back on reading this month. Only two books – both of which were worthy of five star reviews.  Moving on into January, I kick start the new year with six. 

 

So it just remains for me to wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday we were welcoming in the Millennium!

Best wishes and I’ll be back at the end of January.

Jo x

Posted in Writing

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER UPDATE

Well, here we are, marching towards Christmas. How did 2021 go so quickly?  It seems only yesterday we were welcoming in the New Year, and now it’s almost time to bid it farewell.

October ended up being so busy I missed my update, so am bringing it along to join November’s.  The tenth month seemed to be filled with all sorts of appointments, both dental and medical, plus visits to friends and meals out.   The final few days of the month saw us in Brockenhurst for our wedding anniversary.  The weather was a mix of overnight rain and windy, showery days.  We had a two night stay, meaning one whole day there to ourselves.  The hotel was an absolute gem of a find and we will definitely be back next year. Everything there was so well organised, the rooms clean and bright and we were welcomed with coffee and cake. Breakfasts were enormous and set us up for the day.  The in-house restaurant did some pretty exceptional meals and just as well we opted to eat there as the evening were pretty wet!  Not the kind of weather to venture out to eat.  Our one ‘day there saw us in Lymington during the morning, and after a wander and a coffee we headed out to Christchurch, stopping on the way to take a photo of The Needles, just off the Isle of Wight.  Although we managed this between showers, the wind was so strong we both had trouble keeping upright!  Sadly this had a detrimental effect on capturing anything in the way of a sensible shot!

Back from Hampshire it was straight in to Trick or Treat which saw a goodly number of local costumed children with their buckets – and adults accompanying them – knocking on doors and gathering goodies.  Days later it was Bonfire night – usually an event that starts in mid-October and goes on well into November with nightly bangs and whooshing of rockets. This year, for whatever reason, it was much quieter. Maybe people decided to go to the many official ones around, who knows?

Mid-November our new front door and a team of fitters arrived. Ordered in August and held up due to an unprecedented demand at the manufacturers, we were really looking forward to the change. Unfortunately, it was not the door we had ordered.  We only discovered this once the old door had been cut up. It meant they had to fit it and re-order.  We’ve now been told it’s due here on 9th December, so fingers crossed all will go well this time.

I have to admit to have been struggling with my current WIP.  It’s all there – plot, characters, the lot. It simply needs to be written. And that’s where the problem has been – finding my writing mojo.  So, I have been working on it in small steps. Usually I like to have at least 2,000 words completed from any one writing session. However, on this occasion I know that pushing myself to accomplish this is not the answer. It will only make matters worse and be counter productive. So when I get an idea for a scene I just write that one scene.  If anything comes from that, say, moving it on to the next scene, then I will happily go with it. But I do not force myself to complete something I don’t feel any current inspiration for.  I’m hoping that January – which is my least favourite month and usually very quiet – will proved to be the time to kick start everything again as there will be no distractions.

READING AND REVIEWING

OCTOBER 2021

NOVEMBER 2021

So that’s it for the time being. I will be back again at the end of December. In the meantime here’s wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

Posted in Writing

TIME TO REPEL ALL BOARDERS

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, it’s getting cooler, and a certain species is on the prowl for a mate. Am I talking about foxes? Badgers? Owls? Think smaller with multiple legs. Yes, it’s time for the annual spider invasion.

Nothing is worse than being curled up on the couch reading or watching your favourite TV programme and then out of the corner of your eye you catch movement… and freeze. I think I have yet to find a woman who can tolerate arachnids, in fact some are absolutely terrified of them. Cat ownership taught me to cope with mice but spiders? That’s a whole different thing. My problem with them is that they have far too many legs which means they are adept at changing direction at speed so just when you think that pint glass you have pulled from the cupboard is about to trap them, they dodge away. They also have the disconcerting habit of leaping in the air, which can guarantee you will leap as well, hopefully in the other direction!

Last year, after reading about the fact our eight legged friends weren’t keen on horse chestnuts, we began collecting and leaving them around the house in places where our spiders are usually seen. There are two local trees a few hundred yards away from the house, so a plentiful supply. We have an under croft which runs below the lounge and dining room. I have never gone down there, nor do I intend to, as it is a well known habitat for multiple types and sizes of spider and also a perfect place for them to gain access to the house. On occasions, when work has been undertaken, holes have been drilled in the floor. These, however small, present little trouble to a determined spider in search of romance. I cannot say hand on heart that these chestnuts give us full protection, although we have seen a definite reduction. And for the spiders that do manage to get through, we have invested in the ultimate humane deterrent, pictured below. Much as I detest these eight legged intruders, there is no way I would kill one unnecessarily. Purchased from Amazon, this nifty little contraption means we can deal with them safely. So far we have ejected several quickly and painlessly out of the bathroom window or front door where hopefully they will find better luck tracking down the girl of their dreams.

Posted in Writing

September Update

Another month over. I’ve had my Cornish break, a relaxing week enjoying some fabulous food, visiting two amazing houses and gardens and soaking up the atmosphere in Fowey in preparation for my next book: the third and final part of my Cornish trilogy.

Back in July I’d booked all our evening meals weeks before our trip to South Devon. This time, however, I convinced myself that things would be back to normal. That meant booking Sunday and Friday lunches, our first and last meals, and working from there.  So when we returned from Sunday lunch, I scanned my mobile for the names and numbers of places in Fowey where we had previously enjoyed great food.  The first restaurant I called apologised and told me they were fully booked until the following Saturday!  It appeared staycation was very much alive and well.  The return of the new autumn term may have seen families disappear but a new and older set of holiday makers had arrived and the place was buzzing. However, all came good in the end and I managed to book us in on all but one of the remaining evenings.

One of the pubs I managed to book (twice actually) was The Old Ferry Inn at Boddinick. Luckily we were staying right next to the Boddinick Ferry which takes both cars and foot passengers. It meant we could hop on the ferry, enjoy our meal, and hop back on again to return to the apartment.  The pub’s dining room had a wonderful view of the estuary, looking up towards Polruan. On our first meal there, it was a warm, clear evening and we not only had the benefit of a great menu but also a fabulous view from our table as you will see from the photo below.  The white house with blue shutters on the left side of the picture is where author Daphne Du Maurier wrote her many novels.  

As with most holidays, the time went quickly and soon we were packing our cases for the homeward journey.  Fowey had became a bit of an oasis. Time to just chill out and think about nothing in particular – whether we were spending time with a glass of wine on the apartment’s patio, or watching the water traffic on the river. In my case there was an element of busman’s holiday.  Walking through its streets, I soon became drawn back to my fictitious estuary town of Kingswater.  My third and final book of the trilogy features one of the lesser known characters. Until that week, I still had no idea about her life or her family background. That had still to be created.  Happily, it wasn’t long before it all  began to come together. Now I’m almost ready to begin, and feel quite excited at the prospect of creating another story, which like the others, will contain not only romance, but an element of mystery and suspense.

In my last post I mentioned I would be talking about real life characters who had inspired my writing. In my first books, set in the fictitious Somerset village of Meridan Cross during the 1950s and 60s, I took the opportunity to incorporate one or two individuals I remembered from childhood. One character in the book was an old village man called ‘Doggie’ Barker. He lived in a cottage in the village with his canine companion, a border collie. Doggie’s character was taken from someone in the small Wiltshire village where I grew up. I remember him as ‘Brusher’ Stone, a nickname given him on account of the heavy moustache he sported, so my grandfather told me. A retired farm worker, he would spend most of his time during summer evenings leaning on his gate, chatting to locals who passed. His dog, a black and white Labrador cross, was named Toby, a name I kept for my fictitious canine. Central character Ella’s grandmother, Laura Kendrick, was also based on someone I ‘borrowed’. Marjorie Welch lived in the manor house and was our Sunday School teacher. Married to a retired army colonel and a former debutante (in the time when debs were presented at court), she moved in with her family when I was around eight years old. She thoroughly immersed herself in village life, running the elderly to GP appointments, collecting prescriptions, and even personally delivering a barrow full of logs to a young couple with a new baby when we were snowed in one winter. A wonderful character on which to base Ella’s strong, capable grandmother.

Of course drawing on childhood memories proved useful for my first novels, but as I moved on into contemporary romance, it became all about visualising my characters instead of ‘exporting’ them from the past. Having said that, I have to admit to still getting inspiration for my heroes from stars of both the big and small screen.

And just before I sign off, I’m pleased to announce that I have completed my Goodreads challenge for 2021. However, I’m planning to continue reading until the end of the year – there are so many good books out there. These are my September reads. I don’t usually make recommendations, but have to say Sarah Goodwin’s Stranded and Sheryl Browne’s The Liar’s Child are, in my opinion, a couple of the best psychological thrillers so far this year.

So that is it for the moment. Will catch up again at the end of October.

And now off to write, wish me luck!

Best wishes

Jo

Posted in Writing

Okay, we’ve sorted out the location, now what’s next?

Earlier in the month I posted about the locations which had inspired me to create the coastal community of Kingswater – a town of two halves facing each other across the estuary of the fictitious Kings River. Fowey in Cornwall is the main setting, with a few additions from the town of Dartmouth in Devon.  The backdrop to a story is important, but another essential part of this parallel universe is what lies within that setting. In Shadows on the Water,  Heron’s Gate House and Vineyard played an important role.  The inspiration for this came about on a river trip up to Totnes (used for the fictional town Kingshead in the novels) where I spotted what we were told by the tour boat manager was the Sharpham Trust’s Sandridge Barton Vineyards. A new state of the art winery has been built there and a future visitor centre is planned.  The vines which sprawl over the hillside towards the banks of the River Dart, produce award winning wines and on September 9th this year the winery will be celebrating its fortieth anniversary.  You can read more about the business, their history and the wines and cheese they produce by clicking on the blue and white Sharpham WordPress logo below.

Sandridge Barton Wines

The Sharpham Trust also own a 18th century grade I listed Palladian villa which overlooks the vineyards and faces the river. The house hosts everything from weddings to holistic and art experiences as well as walks, tours, and the opportunity to help in their working garden. I enclose a link below for more details

https://www.sharphamtrust.org

In Shadows on the Water Heron’s Gate was purely and simply a home, and not a place offering a host of courses and creative activities as Sharpham does. It’s also pale stoned, Georgian and listed with terraced gardens which reach down to the river. It was Sharpham’s location which made me decide it would work very well as Heron’s Gate

In book 2, A Kingswater Summer, one of the main characters, Stella Wynter is a retired actress who lives in a large house up river from Heron’s Gate. No prizes for guessing the inspiration for her home, Penmarra. Of course, it was Agatha Christie’s Greenway which we visited in September 2019. Seeing this amazing house, with its extensive grounds overlooking the river, my imagination began to go into overdrive, recognising the potential for a place where my fictitious actress could have her home.

Stella’s house is a little smaller than Greenway and built of local stone and while Agatha Christie’s home is filled with memorabilia, Stella has instead chosen a designated area in her house. With main character Kiera’s assistance, this will eventually become a place which holds all her treasures and awards from a long and successful acting career.

Greenway perfectly captured this wonderful home by the river with extensive gardens, woods and a myriad of pathways. I also added stables and a boathouse with an apartment over. The boathouse and its apartment were important because I needed somewhere away from the main house for Kiera’s love interest, actor Jake Paterson, to stay. I wanted him to remain a bit of an enigma. A previous and rather unfortunate encounter with Jake, means Kiera isn’t exactly pleased to find him living there. But she’s also curious, and, although she denies it, attracted to this infuriating man. Therefore keeping him at a distance added to the mystery surrounding who he was and why he was there.

So there we are. Location is essential in order to give a book a firm framework in which to tell your story. But equally significant within that setting are the places where people live and work. It gives the characters a proper identity; something I feel is important, especially when writing about communities, as I do.

Next time: Some of the real life situations and characters that have become incorporated into my fictional worlds.

Jo LambertWriter of Modern Romantic Sagas

Posted in Writing

Location, Location, Location…

As a country girl who grew up in rural Wiltshire, when I first began to write commercially, the old saying ‘write what you know about’ was very much central to my stories.  I knew all about village life; its structure, occupations, the characters, the gossip.  It proved to be a fitting backdrop for my first novels. Set in West Somerset in a village called Meridan Cross (based on the village I grew up in), I created a group of friends (Ella, Issy, Rachel and Jenny). I followed their lives for five books in all, beginning during their teens (in the 1960s) and ending in their forties.  By book four the ‘girls’ were now in their mid thirties with teenage children. Although the village was still very much a central hub, one of the major scenes was set in southern Spain as Ella fought to save her marriage to record producer Matt Benedict.  At the time of writing, the Costa Del Sol was well known to us, having spent several holidays with friends in their apartment just outside Marbella.

Book five saw the children (now young adults) carry the story forward.  There were scenes set in Dartmouth, the Caribbean and Italy and Spain as rock star Christian Rosetti (managed by Matt) recorded his new album in the Caymans and went on a European tour which ended in tragedy.  The two final books showed I had expanded my horizons from rural England to Europe and beyond. Some of the places I wrote about I had visited, but part of the research for those I had not, took the form of Google Maps where I could not only describe places but also take a ‘virtual’ walk around.

With the Somerset series coming to an end, for the next location, inspiration came from our regular holidays in Dartmouth, South Hams.  My South Devon Duo was set in the fictitious village of Lynbrook – a return to rural life, this one with a pub at the centre of the community. 

By this time I’d switched from being a saga author to writing contemporary romantic suspense.  And that is where I have stayed. My latest trilogy – two books down one to go – is set on the south coast of Cornwall.  I’ve cheated a bit with the location, however.  East and West Kingswater on either side of the Kings River estuary, has been a blend of Dartmouth/Kingswear and Fowey/Polruan. 

If I’ve learned anything in the time I have been writing, it is that for me personally, it is far easier to set my cast of characters in a real place rather than somewhere conjoured up by my imagination.  However, at the end of the day, there is no golden rule for this. It’s down to the individual writer and what suits them best.

A Kingswater Summer, the second book set in the Cornish estuary town of Kingswater is currently on offer as an e-book download on Amazon for 99p/$1.37

Love, Deception and Family Secrets

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09C8Y9BC8/

US Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C8Y9BC8/