Sunday 31 March 2019

Colliding Worlds: Back of the Eyelids

Colliding Worlds: Back of the Eyelids

In the book I'm writing at present, the heroine, Betony, is a thirty-something woman whose habit, when trying to make a decision, is to close her eyes.

Mostly when she did that she saw featureless darkness. Occasionally she saw something else.
A café.
It wasn’t any particular café, but Betony cast her mind loose and walked the streets in a meanspirited drizzle. She entered the first café she saw and sat waiting for inspiration. None came. She just got colder and more depressed.

Of course, something does come of Betony's cafe visit, but I've just realised this is another example of my colliding worlds. My dad, who was certainly nothing like Betony otherwise, told me once that he was a good speller because he could close his eyes and see the word he needed written on the back of his eyelids.
So, Betony shares a trick with my dad!

Saturday 30 March 2019

Betony Field's Vouch-Safe leaflet

Object post:

Betony Field's
Vouch-Safe Leaflet

Source: She picked it up in the V-S Cafe in London
Significance: It turned up just when she needed it
Fate: No doubt Betony kept it forever
From: Betony Buys Adventure

Betony was hunched in a cafe with her life in ruins when she picked up a leaflet someone dropped while restocking the holders on the cafe tables. With no family and few friends, no job and soon no home, the last thing on her mind was a stray bit of paper, and after looking it over she dismissed it from her mind.

A year later, with her life back on track, Betony found the leaflet in her coat pocket where she must have stashed it.

V-S: What Would You Pay to Buy Your Dream?

With nothing to lose and an unexpected week to herself, Betony returned to the cafe to investigate the leaflet's provenance.  

Friday 29 March 2019


Cafes and writers have a long history.
Some writers do their writing in cafes and why not? Tea and coffee on tap, anonymity, people-watching...heating when necessary.  Cafes are also wonderful spots to set scenes and dialogue in novels. Cafes are good meeting places, where characters who may not want to visit one another's homes. They are also good safe meeting places where one might hold a fairly private conversation.
On the side, it's great fun to create cafes; name them, give them owners and ambiance...

Thursday 28 March 2019

Feeling Like Myself

Today a writing friend told me he'd been writing for as long as he'd been in his previous occupation and that he loved both jobs because they made him feel like himself. That's one of the best two descriptions I've ever heard about the appeal of writing. The other is "putting the world to rights".
So there you are. If you're a writer, and someone asks you why you write... tell them. Rather, think about it now before someone asks.
I do it because it makes me feel like myself.
I do it to put the world to rights.
I do it because...?

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Fifty Years On

Someone asked me today how long I'd been "doing this". I wasn't sure what she meant, so I replied I'd been writing for pay for fifty years, assessing since the mid 1980s and editing for around twenty years. I hadn't realised that anniversary had come around until she asked.
The first story I was paid for was called Under a Lucky Star. I wrote it at school for a contest and won. I think the prize was twenty dollars. After that, I wrote other competition pieces and sold a few. It's a long time... So, happy anniversary to me, eh?

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Mini series covers

Series covers look better when they have strong similarities. Some of my recent and upcoming series covers fit this profile.

The Garlands of Thorn and May trilogy have closely-related covers with the same styled figure and floral motifs inside frames.

The first three books in the Elydian Dawn series have similar backgrounds in differing colours and all feature the same major character.

Then come the three stories in the Court Leopold mini series... all of which feature Court Leopold and his horse, Art.

The fourth set of lookalike covers is the Pearl series.

Then come the Cat Mahal is Magic series (a work in progress)
How do you like look-alike series covers?

Monday 25 March 2019

Names of their Times

Names are an endless fascination to me, as regular readers of this blog (if there are any...) will probably know. Names need to be of their place and time, and we tend to notice them if they're out of place. A Kylie in 17th Century London would be unlikely. When I spotted someone called Kim in the cast of an old film, I thought it odd. I looked her up and discovered it was a stage name. She had, as I suspected, been born before Kim became known as a girl's name. Recently I heard of someone younger than I am with a name I'd have placed as being much older... so I looked her up and found she's from a different ethnicity. In fact, I've noticed that before... children given names I place as older are often from another culture.

Sunday 24 March 2019

Right or Left?

I'm right-handed. My handwriting is terrible, but I can't blame that on being made to write with the wrong hand. I have always been right-handed. All my family, to the best of my knowledge, has been right-handed. It has just occurred to me that almost all my book characters (the ones who write) are right-handed like me. The only two exceptions I can think of are Alice McDonald Campbell from Heather & Heath and Dumas Hardy from Counterpoint Questions and Counterpoint Answers.
This leads me to wonder is left-handed writers write more left-handed characters than I do...

Saturday 23 March 2019

Memories in verse

This verse is one I wrote in a series with the theme of Memory Lane. Lots of memories fall into my books and stories. This one never did, so I put it into verse instead.

Friday 22 March 2019

Invented words

I dearly love florid invented words in the mouths of some of my characters. I first took to language making in a story called New World. It took place in the future, and characters spoke in a clipped manner, eliding some words. I don't have any samples of dialogue from the 1970s story, because it was published in a kind of magazine and I only ever had one copy which has vanished long ago.
My next attempt was in the book CD and the Giant Cat, in which my co-writer and I invented terms to match the science fiction setting. A YAD was a young adult, a SENCIT a senior citizen and so on. Next came Trinity Street, set mostly in the 1990s, but with a character from the far future masquerading as a college student. He tended to throw in bits of German, French and Fijian mixed with his English. His name was DHQ49, which was blurred to Daichqu-forn, but for the purposes of his masquerade he was known as Gerhardt Watchman.
Sir Humphrey Bookerstaff, in the Reluctant Knight trilogy had his own dialect, mostly compounded of insults.
 ‘Thou idiot indebocket, thou clocketting cloche, thou nasty, nardly knight!' is just one sample of the comments he levelled at poor young Simon Knight.
Flax Lilykicker, from Flax the Feral Fairy, also had an interesting vocabulary...

“Lassie, do you know–” the hags began.
Flax picked up Butterfly’s second-best slipper and threw it at Maggie’s head. “Go away, you clackety slopper!”
The bluebird dropped the envelope, and flew away with an angry twitter. “Come back!” howled Flax. “Give me that invitation, or I’ll use your claws to comb my hair!”
Auld Anni picked up the envelope the bird had dropped, and opened it. “Miss Kisses informs Flax Lilykicker that she is not—”

Flax threw a hairbrush at Anni. “That’s my invitation, you tatty old haggis!” She jumped out the window, snatched the card from Anni and raced away.

 My most recent venture into florid-speak is with Tress, who appears in Court in Between. Tress is in love with a character named d'Chevalier, but that doesn't stop her calling him names.

Thou cockle-headed, purple-knickered, long-nosed corby. 

She keeps her real venom for Court Leopold who looks like d'Chevalier and whom she blames, with some justice, for depriving her of her favourite person...

“I’m not him,” Court said quickly.

She swept her gaze over him without pleasure. “Nay, thou’rt t’other one,” she said. “Thou’rt t’ skimpy unfeathered fowl,” she mentioned.

Tress has a lot more to say, much of it too highly coloured to be mentioned in polite company. As d'Chevalier himself says, 'And how does that sweet mouth form such words?' That's for Tress to know and for him to discover. 

Thursday 21 March 2019

Colours in Titles

Colours in titles evoke emotion immediately. It's so much so I wonder why I haven't used them more often! Here are the ones I have used... I see one black, three blue, three gold, three silver and one green.  Where are the yellows, pinks, reds, oranges, greys...?

Beyond the Black Stump (2002)

Blue Gold (1999)
Blue Moon Animal Day (1987)
The Blue Stealer (2009)

Fools' Gold (2000)
Gold and Mud (2008)
​Gold Team (2009)

Green Balls (2017) (Fairy in the Bed series)

The Silver Egg (1999)
The Silvering (2018) (Elydian Dawn 2)
​The Silver Skateboard (2016)

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Names in the Title

After the look at animals in the titles yesterday, I decided to have a look at names in my book titles. As with animals, there are a few... Here are most of the names. I've missed out names such as Blinky Bill and Skippy and so on where I didn't invent the character.

Where a name is repeated (such as Maria/Maria) it refers to two different books about two different people. (Maria's Diary and Maria and the Pocket in this case.) The two Kates are from A Crew for Captain Kate and Rosina and Kate. Series characters such as Pearl the unicorn and Rosina Paul appear  just once, even though their names are on more than one book. In a handful of cases the name in the book title is a nickname. In these cases the full first name is given in brackets. Obviously, I've used some initial letters more than once... and QUYZ don't appear all. Hmmm. There's just one N and the only O to date is actually a surname... All this must mean something or other, but I don't know what!

Ace (a dog)
Amy Claire
Aurora (an alien)

Bastet (a cat goddess)
Beauty (a cat)
Bob (a dog)
Bobbi (a dog)

Calico (a cat)
CD (Calista)
Court (Delacourt)

Drummond (a teddy bear)

Effie (an elf)
Ella (a parrot)
Emma Jane

Flax (a fairy)

George (a camel)

Hector (a centaur)
Henry (a dog)
Hugo’s Reward (a calf)

Ink (a cat)

Jacques (a dog)
Joe (a horse)

Kanga-Who? (a kangaroo)

Lamburger (a lamb)
Lilly (Lillianda)

Mal (a mermaid)
Matt (Paramatta)

Nanda (a gnome)

O’Connor (Flynn O’Connor)

Parroty (a parrot)
Pearl (a unicorn)
Pepper (a pony)

Raffina (a werewolf)
Ramses (a rat)
Ratty (a rat)

Selka (a selkie)
Snickers (a duck)

Tikki (a pixie)
Timothy Whuffenpuffen-Whippersnapper (a dragon)



Weava (a witch)

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Animals in the Titles

Animals appear in a lot of my books, but I wasn't sure how many appeared in the actual titles... Here they are (well, most of them)... Mind you, all is not always what it seems. There's no actual lion in Lion in the Night...


Animals in Silhouette (2018)  
​Animal Twist (2016)                
Blue Moon Animal Day (1987)  

Zoo-thology (2015)


Budgie Rock (2001)
​The Ducktators (2007-2017)
​Ella (1997)  (A parrot)
​Fowl Play (2008)
Killer Ducks (2001)
Parrot Seed (1997)
Parroty (1999)
The Peacock's Pearl (2016) (Cat Mahal is Magic 1)
Snickers (1997) (duck)

The Awful Pawful (2006)            
Bathing Beauty (2000)               

Calico Calypso (2018) (Fairy in the Bed series)
The Cat and the King (1987)
The Cat Burglar of Pethaven Drive (1996)
CD and the Giant Cat (1997)

Cranky Paws (2008)
The Game of Cat and Lucy (1999)
The Kitnapped Creature (2008)
The Kitten's Tale (2010)

Pen and Ink (2017) (Fairy in the Bed series)
Ramses Rat and the Great Cat Bastet (2015)
There Were Cats (1987)

Ramses Rat and the Great Cat Bastet (2015)
Minipigs (1995)
​Ratty (1998)

The Blue Stealer (2009)             
Bobbi's Gone (2002)
​A Boy's Best Friend? (2000)
The Case of the Disappearing Dog (2001)
Dog Den Mystery (2005)
Dog Went for a Walk (1994)

The Follow Dog (1991)
The Haunting of Ace (1987)
Henry's Ears (1987)
Inspector Jacques (2009)
Motorbike Bob (2009)
The Mugged Pug (2005)

The Pup's Tale (2010)
Soggy Doggy Dot Com (2004)
Swag-Dog (2002)

Aunt Victoria's Monster (2001)  
Bunyips Don't (1996)
The Bunyip's Lair (2001)
The Bunyip Wakes (1984)

​Creature Cottage (1999)
The Dragon's Coming After You (1994)
Dragon Mode (2007)

Fantastic Creatures (2009)
Hector's Garden (1999) (Centaur)
​The Hoop Snake (2001)
Kallie Fetches the Dragon (1998)
The Lonely Dragon (1997)
Monster Bait (2001)
The Monsters (2001)
​Monster Minder (2001)
​Monster Planet (2007)

Pearl the Flying Unicorn (2018) (Pearl 2)
Pearl the Magical Unicorn (2018) (Pearl 1)
Pearl the Proper Unicorn (2018) (Pearl 3)

The Pocket Unicorn (2000)
Raffina (1999) (werewolf)
​Timothy Whuffenpuffen-Whippersnapper (1995) dragon
The Way of the Dragon (2012)
Selka (2004) (SELKIE)

Click! (1995)
Shoo Spider (2001)

Crocodiles Swim in the Swamp (1999)
The Python Problem (2009)
Where Did the Dinosaurs Go? (2013)

The Day the Cows Slept In (1979)
Hugo's Reward (2002)
Rosina and Her Calf (1983)
The Lamburger Emergency (2002)

Dave and Joe (1989)

Her Kingdom for a Pony (1977)
Looking After Pepper (1999)
The Mare's Tale (2008)
The Mares of Merryland Chase (2017)
​X and the Pony (2018)
Hairy George (2001) (camel)
Silly Ass (1993)

The Heavy Hippo (2006)
The Lion in the Night (1997)
Wolfmaster (2001)
​Yaks of the Mountains (2006)

The Story of Kanga-Who? (2014)
That Bothersome Bandiscoot (2003)
Tiger Trail (2001)

Monday 18 March 2019

A-Books The Ancient Hare

The Ancient Hare is one of the poems in the book ANIMALS IN SILHOUETTE. I wrote it after I found a wonderful old engraving on a free graphics site.

The Ancient Hare

This ancient hare was drawn
In 1754
Think about that for a minute
That was the time
The word serendipity came into use
That was when George Washington was 22
But the dodo had been extinct for 70 years
No one had flown a plane
Or even a hot air balloon
Or (clearly) been to the moon
The most famous hare in literature
Mad March Hare from Alice
Wouldn’t appear for 111 years
If you were a girl you’d probably wear
A long stiff dress to your ankles
If you were a little boy
You’d feel fine in petticoats
You might have played with dolls
Toy soldiers, or ridden a hobby horse
You could even have had a board game!
You might have had a book called
A Little Pretty Pocket Book
And you wouldn’t have had to bother
Learning your left shoe from your right
‘cos they were both the same.
So this hare
                 Is very

Don’t be silly, of course he never saw a dinosaur. Now those are seriously old.

Sunday 17 March 2019

St Patrick's Day

I'm not Irish (though some of my ancestors were) but I am rather fond of St Patrick. I wrote a play about him way back in the 1970s, and I have quite a few Irish characters, including leprechauns who aren't Irish, but who, like me, have Irish ancestry. It being Sunday, I rang the local St Patrick's Primary school and got permission to go into their grounds today to take St Pat's photo. This is what happened.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Future Books

Future Books in this case are books that exist in my mind, and as notes, and which may exist as printed books sometime in the future. I have so many crowding my brain waiting to be written that it's difficult to know which to write first. Some of them have names but others are more concepts.

Books I hope to get out of my brain and onto paper in 2019 include (but are not limited to)
Northern Lights, Rachel Outward Bound, Jetsam, Seeking Joy and The Pisky Maid.

Somehow I don't like my chances since it's already mid-March!

Friday 15 March 2019

nineteen pages

I just signed a nineteen-page contract for a little book-to-be that is 12 pp in manuscript and comes in at not much over 1500 words. It doesn't have a title yet.
The contract I signed before that was for a story of 19000 words or so. It was a two-page document.
I'm baffled.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Books that are Friends

In childhood, it's easy for books to become friends (for those who like reading, anyway). Some parents object when their children want the same books over and over, but it's not so different from enjoying the same music album several times, or hanging out with the same friends.
It's probably the over and over aspect that leads some books to become part of us. There are books I haven't read in forty years, but I still remember chunks of dialogue. Even if we never reread these childhood friends they are still part of our make-up.
The friend aspect doesn't go away for adult readers, but I think it becomes more difficult for books to win a place as part of us. Maybe this is because we tend not to re-read as much as when we were children, or maybe we become more critical.
I think over the past decade I've found only one series that has become a real friend (leaving aside books I've written, which are part of me anyway)...with one more that might qualify, but which needs a while to settle into my psyche first.

Wednesday 13 March 2019


Once, there was almost a book called Borderline. It was written, accepted, contracted and then-- nothing. That happens sometimes. This one has haunted me for years, because I no longer have a copy of the manuscript. (It was written in the days of floppy disks and the disk corrupted.) I remember I dreamed the first chapter and it stuck in my mind so strongly that I wrote the book very quickly.
Now I can't even remember the names of any of the characters.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Five Easy Errors

OK or okay; not ok. Fair enough, but I distinctly remember the word being rendered as okey back in the day. Was it an error or just a short-lived fashion? Apparently a nokay existed as a word for a short time, too.

Everyday or every day. That depends. You do this every day. The everyday problems continue.

To, too or two? Again, it depends. To is a proposition. He went to school. Too is an adjective (he was too tired) but it also exists as a synonym for as well. (He went too.) Two, obviously, is a number. There is a fourth homonym that formed the central mystery of one of the Black Widowers stories...

Alright or all right? Technically, all right is correct in every case.

Already or all ready? That depends. He was already there. She was all ready for the dance.

So there you have five  common writing glitches I encounter over and over and over again.  The five easy errors.

Monday 11 March 2019

Writers and Editors as Readers

I think most writers and editors enjoy reading. The world of storytelling is, I'd assume, the thing that drew them into the business of writing in the first place. I remember my astonishment (and vague annoyance) when I heard a popular author do a talk at a conference and she claimed not to have read a book (other than her own proofs, presumably) in years. I asked her about a particular character whom I'd found of interest in one of her books and she claimed not to remember him. (He was the hero, not a walk-on role.)
I like to think she was an exception though.
I probably don't read as many books now as I used to, but that's a matter of time and logistics. I often feel vaguely guilty, if not vaguely panic-stricken, when I'm reading for pleasure because I'm aware of the clients waiting for me to read their mss. When I do read, the chances are it will be an audio book which I can read while walking, gardening, cooking, get the picture. In some ways, moving largely to audio books has broadened my experience as I've "read" books I probably wouldn't have chosen from a book shop. I've just walked through three books of a four book series and am waiting impatiently for Book #4 to be rendered into audio.
As a reader and/or editor, I think I approach reading from a slightly different angle than I did as a child. For one thing, I note the way plots and characters turn out and sometimes I find myself thinking I wouldn't have done that. Then, I find myself mentally editing the book as I listen... please, stop it with that verb. I'm noticing it and that's not good...
Nevertheless, I do enjoy a good story and books, whether paper, e- or audio, give me something other media doesn't. What's your favourite new book this year?

Sunday 10 March 2019

Illustrations in My Head

I remember how surprised I was when I first saw an illustration that didn't match the picture I'd had in my  head. Now, the picture was delightful. I love the work of this illustrator and always have. I'd written a scene about an old cattle dog who liked to skive off and hide under the rose bush. The illustrator drew a potted rose; a standard, I think. I'd been visualising a rambling rose because that's what we had. Since I hadn't stated that I had no reason to expect the illustrator to "see" what I had.
In another picture, someone was leading a show cow from the incorrect side. The illustrator, bless her, agreed to fix that because, unlike the rose, showing cattle isn't a matter of opinion.

You'd think I would have learned but no- I had a girl perched on a table drying her hair. I visualised her rubbing it with a towel because that's how I always dried my hair. The (different) illustrator showed her with a hair-dryer! I barely even knew what one was at that point in my life. Gulp. Again, this showed the gulf between my imagined scene and the illustrator's. 

Last year I was searching for a cover with a woman in colonial costume. I asked someone if he could provide one... and he delivered a sketch of a woman who looked as if she came from a pleasure house in the deep south. The deep south of America. Sigh. Colonial clearly doesn't mean the same thing to everyone!

Saturday 9 March 2019


When writing a series, I keep a running list of characters, titles, places and who is related to whom and how. It's not so difficult for books that occur sometime, but when writing one with events in real time, it can get complicated, especially if you dart about and write a book set in the 1990s followed by one in the late 1960s and then one in 2019 (which was written last November). That's when it's imperative to keep track of who met whom and when, For example, if Jane and Rachel met at school in The Bonding, set in 1967, they can't have an encounter in Trudy's Truth, set in 1966. They can both appear in that title, but they can't meet. If Loft and Attic is set in 1980, then they have to know one another, and to have been at school together... and so on. By the way, none of those titles is real; I made them up on the fly. 

Writing a book in a series out of order, that is, writing one set before the designated now, is known as writing a retrospective. It's actually quite fun if you keep track of what you're doing. For example, two people who meet for the first time in 2017 can still both attend a festival in 2016. They might even see one another in passing. They just can't meet. Of course if you don't keep track of what you're doing, it's easy to slip up and make an oopsie. I almost made one when I wrote one book in a series and then two others that happened before, during and after the first one. I had one character explaining that he'd met six characters with a specific attribute and then, at the eleventh hour, I remembered he'd met a seventh briefly in the book before last which was set a couple of months before this one. Oopsie. Fortunately I caught it in time.  

Friday 8 March 2019

The Long and Winding Road...

Today my husband commented that his emails were always too long but he couldn't work out how to fix the issue. I said he'd know he really had a problem when he set out to write 30,000 words and ended up with 120,000 or so. That's happened to me twice recently, and I also wound up with 80,000 plus when I was thinking of about 20,000. The problem isn't rambling or waffling or even padding; it's more that a story is like a snowball. As it runs down the slope, it gathers more and more snow unto itself. It's also something like a tree. It might start as a sapling with three branches and a twig, but it ends up as a blessed oak.

What to do? Two companies I write for have the perfect solution; break the overlength ms into two or three parts, and publish each as a separate book. This means doing a little rewriting to give a soft entry into Parts Two and Three, but it's doable. It's much easier than trying to cut the ms back by two-thirds.

Thursday 7 March 2019

Colliding Worlds: Vicky Bliss

Sometimes, just for fun, I let the fictional world collide with the real one. It's a little in-joke for people who have some of the same background interests as me.

In the book Counterpoint Questions (not out yet, but will be soon,) Gemma Creed is the roadie for an indie band. When she and the others arrive at the Counterpoint Festival, she's introduced to a cafe owner named Martina Bless. Gemma, who has something of a grasshopper mind, reacts with some inner dialogue:

Court went on to introduce himself to the woman who turned out to be called Martina Bless.
Bless my soul! Bless you. Yi-yi-yi. At least it’s not Bliss like the museum detective lady. 

Martina's surname continues to impinge on Gemma's thoughts at intervals, although she mostly keeps that to herself. The snippet above shows that Gemma has read at least one of the Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters. It's not only the chance similarity in names, but Bless is a Swiss surname and Martina looks Swiss,  Austrian or German to Gemma although she is in fact an Alpenfee woman. Vicky Bliss, an American (Pennsylvania Dutch I think...) works in a museum in Munich.  It's a slender thread, but enough to jog Gemma's memory...and maybe some readers'. 

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Tansy Thrift's Plum Tree Orchard

Tansy Thrift’s
Plum Tree Orchard
From Court in Between

Source: Tansy planted it at d’Chevalier Manor
Significance: She was hoping to establish tree-rule
Fate: Growing happily

She set the teapot on the grass. “Tree-rule is the reason I planted the plum trees. They don’t take long to bear, but it’s the years of growth that matter.”
Tansy Thrift was in the unenviable position of looking after someone else’s horse. To do so, she moved from her father’s cottage to the deserted d’Chevalier Manor. She didn’t move into the manor house, as she didn’t feel it would be appropriate to take a horse in there, so she and Art made themselves at home in the stable.
By the tree-rule law of Over There, Tansy knew that if she established trees, especially productive ones, and maintained them for seven years, she could claim the ground where they grew. Therefore, she added her own small patch of plum trees to the old established orchard. She chose plums because they were easy to grow, versatile and bore quickly.
The hereditary heir of the manor came to claim his horse when the trees were still a few months short of seven years old. Tansy felt both annoyed and defensive, but to her relief Court Leopold agreed she’d been sensible.
. If anyone should have that manor it’s you. It will be yours if you stay on for another half year or so. Those young trees should give you tree-rule right.”
He saw her look of dismay.
“Have I said something to upset you? I can understand it if you never want to see the place again.”
She set the teapot on the grass. “Tree-rule is the reason I planted the plum trees. They don’t take long to bear, but it’s the years of growth that matter.”
“That was a most sensible idea,” he said steadily.
“You don’t mind?”
“I don’t mind. How could I?”