Fellow members of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association will know this is the exciting time of the year when the finalists for Romantic Novel of the Year are announced. See HOME page for link to view the shortlisted books in the various categories for 2018. If you like romance it’s an ideal opportunity to check out some good reads and perhaps try out a new author or two. Section winners and the overall winning book get announced at a gala evening on 5 March. Delighted to say this year’s short list includes one of my own regency romances “A Master of Litigation”.
My Christmas/New Year reads were an interesting mix. We stayed with relatives in Brighton and I finished Robert Harris’s “Conclave” (about selection of a new Pope) on Christmas Eve, a few hours before some of our party braved the chilly evening air to walk to the huge St Bartholomew’s Church for midnight mass. Lots of scarlet and gold robes, excellent choir and orchestra with Mozart’s Mass in F and a very large congregation (I mean a considerable number of us, not that we’d already stuffed ourselves with too much food). Then, one could argue on a similar theme, I read Malyn Bromfield’s “Mayflowers for November” a fresh take on Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall told through the eyes of a servant. After that it was Tracy Chevalier’s “New Boy”, a modern take on Othello set in a US elementary school. Finally I’ve just finished Helen Dunmore’s last book, “Birdcage Walk”, set in Bristol at the time of the French Revolution, when it did not do to be a radical, and when many building projects ground to a halt, including Royal York Crescent, where I lived as a student 50 years ago in a pre-gentrified basement flat. All different but all worth a read. Wishing you all HAPPY READING 2018!
Know how your books wander? I’d lent out a couple of guides on writing and forgotten them, until the borrower came across them in a clear out and returned them. If, like I did, you’re starting from scratch on fiction writing, both provide helpful advice and are very accessible. One’s more on structuring a novel, the other on the skill of editing your own work. They first came out a few decades ago but well worth a look.
Recently visited the wonderful National Library of Wales, a stately Grade II listed building high on the hillside overlooking the vista of Cardigan Bay at Aberystwyth. I was there to consult the diaries of Tom Jones (not the singer, but the other one), who was Deputy Cabinet Secretary from 1916 to 1930. The building celebrated its centenary a couple of years ago. What I hadn’t appreciated was the role it served during the second world war, acting as a repository for many rare manuscripts (such as the Magna Carta), books, paintings and other artefacts brought from various institutions for safe-keeping. For this purpose, the architect designed a tunnel in an outcrop of rock close to the building. It was specially heated and ventilated and a British Museum expert actually stayed in the library at night to ensure the air conditioning didn’t let them down.
The recent hurricanes put me in mind of 1987…remember…not only the big storm but a heap of man-made disasters and some momentous decisions?
A local book group, of which I’m a member, recently read E George’s latest Inspector Lynley thriller ‘A Banquet of Consequences’ and an interesting discussion followed. The group mostly agreed that some scenes (to do with abuse and violent attack) were very graphically described, perhaps unnecessarily so, but then the same approach is followed in film these days. There must be much employment for skilled make-up artists, now that all the blood and gore is shown in such detail, rather than left to the viewer’s imagination. I recall a half-hour drama shown on British TV decades ago. It was called “Rats”, about a killer pack of the same on the rampage through a housing estate. Spine-chilling scary stuff, but we never saw a single rat! Here’s to the subtle skill of creating atmosphere, fear and suspicion, whether on the screen or in the written word, without necessarily spelling it out. Less is more.
Several people have asked me about the progress of our squatting nest of mistle thrushes. The news is suprisingly good. All 5 fledged and flew, despite the prowling of a couple of local cats and the interest of a magpie, all of which were seen off by the parent birds. Above are a few photos we managed to take through the window.
Watching their development stage by stage, I feel a metaphor coming on. Writing a story can begin with a confused bundle of small ideas that gradually grow and become more distinct until (hopefully) it flies. My very first piece of fiction writing began like that, some years ago. I submitted the original for feedback from a professional writers’ organisation, after which, following much editing and resulting re-shaping, it was my first entry for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2010. After yet more work it was at last accepted for publication in 2015, so the whole process took a little longer than the 17 days from hatching to flying by the next generation of mistle thrushes.
Don’t forget to enter to win A MASTER OF LITIGATION in the Goodreads Giveaway which ends on June 4th.
Another unexpected visitor this spring is a pair of nesting mistle thrushes (the UK's largest songbird, so called because they eat mistletoe). We were away for the second half of April and perhaps the quiet lulled the home-seeking pair into the false assumption that our little section of an old lime-stone barn was deserted rather than converted. We’d seen them flying around, then spotted this mossy nest, on the small window ledge of the downstairs loo window, quite a vulnerable position given the possible predators around. The young have just hatched so we hope they survive once they are big enough to put their heads above the parapet. This time of year is very diverting, with the swifts, house martens and pipistrelle bats that variously occupy our eaves over the summer.
Currently, I’m not doing much writing but am occupied with historical research, when not gazing out of the window at the wonders of nature.
How to be different in the North Yorkshire Dales? Don’t be a sheep!
We spied this pair of alpacas on a walk from Embsay, near Skipton (see the sheep hiding in the dip?).
As a writer it’s quite challenging to try and be different. Years ago I was in sales and marketing for a few years and learnt about identifying USPs. I quite liked what my HNS reviewer said: “The element that sets Ms Fisher’s work apart from other romantic historical fiction is her concern with the social issues of the period…period romance with a bit of substance, but never heavy and boring.” (review of Rose Glace).
In my Regency Master Series, you therefore won’t be surprised to find political themes woven around the central romance. A MASTER OF SPECULATION has a radical former naval captain taking action to prevent the execution of one of Napoleon’s former marshals, A MASTER OF INDUSTRY has a wealthy earl developing a conscience about employment of children in mills. Watch out for A MASTER OF LITIGATION, due out in May, which has a conventional barrister using his role in court to question the government’s repression of the people.
Susan Leona Fisher : an author's progress.