A Little First Hand Research

Francesca embarks on a little seaside research on her way to Fishguard Writers’ Holiday.

[First posted in August 2015]

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Llangrannog, or ‘Môrglas’: the view from the house of my main character, Tori.

Last week I had a wonderful time at the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard, my second time at that location but my eighth Writers’ Holiday in all. Coincidentally, it was only a few miles from the village I’m using as a basis for the setting of my latest ‘Work in Progress’. Having only looked at it on Google Maps before, it was the ideal opportunity to investigate the real thing. Armed with my camera and my Welsh language/West Wales consultant (otherwise knows as my friend Angela Johnson!), I had a good walk around the place, snapping numerous photographs.

It was very strange being in a place I’d ‘walked’ around many times on a satellite map, as it really felt like I’d been there before. My ‘WIP’ is about a young woman called Tori, who decides to leave the high life of London and settle down in the sleepy village of Môrglas, a name I made up and which means ‘green sea’ in Welsh. When I was looking for a place on the West Wales coast in which to set my novel, Angela wrote a few ideas down for me. Although I didn’t pick one of them ultimately, they led me to Llangrannog, which is what I based Môrglas on.

‘The Green Dragon’ (Pentre Arms), with Tori’s house just showing behind. Her friend, Ruby, has the large house at the top. Angela can be spied leaning against the railings.

I’ve made a few changes to the area – put a hotel where there’s a café, made another café into an Italian restaurant, put a village hall where there are some houses, moved the church from one side of the village to the other and removed a road, for example. I find that picking a place that already exists and changing a few details for the convenience of my story is so much quicker than inventing something from scratch. In a couple of novels I’ve written, I’ve used places I know very well – Worthing and Littlehampton, where I was born and then brought up –  but again have rearranged them and renamed them.

You might have realised by now that these locations have something in common: they’re all by the sea. As I’ve said before on this blog, I no longer live by the coast and do miss it, so I guess setting stories there makes up for it a little. Out of the four novels and two novellas I’ve completed, along with the ‘WIP’, all but one is set by the sea, and the exception is set near a river (which Littlehampton also possesses).

I have writer friends who use real settings with their proper names, either in the present or in the past (which presents its own problems). Other writers I know make up completely new settings or, in the case of sci-fi, new worlds. If you’re a writer reading this, I’d love to hear how you deal with settings, so feel free to comment below.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Link to Writers’ Holiday

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LADIES WHO LAUNCH!

We welcome back Vivien Hampshire, a former member of Write Minds, to tell us how she organised an online launch party for her first novel, How to Win Back Your Husband.

Launching a new book is a bit like launching a new boat. Having spent so long building it, the last thing you want when you push it out into the choppy seas of the big wide world of publishing is for it to sink on its first day!how-to-win-back-your-husband-cover

I had known for a couple of months that my new romantic comedy ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’ was going to be published on 18 January. I also knew that, although my publishers HQ Digital (formerly Carina) would be promoting it quite heavily on twitter, it was going to be up to me to do a lot of shouting about it too.

I have never been a great twitter user (although I do check it every day and retweet anything I like the look of), much preferring the more intimate feel of Facebook, so that seemed to me the best place to concentrate my efforts. And there, in the sidebar of my Facebook author page, I found a little button marked ‘events’. Having pressed it, it wasn’t too tricky to set up an event of my own: a party to take place online on publication day. If I advertised it early enough and encouraged people to share, I just might attract some interest, and acquire a few new friends and readers along the way.

I wrote a short blurb, explaining what was happening and when, including the lure of a few competition prizes to entice more people in, and added a big picture of my book cover as the banner heading. Knowing it was a mid-week working day, I decided to open at 10am and stay online to welcome ‘guests’ right through until 7pm. It would be a long day, but hopefully worth it!

Now I needed party guests. Sending invitations was easy. No trawling through an address book, rummaging for envelopes or paying for stamps. Facebook very kindly threw up a list of all my ‘friends’ and all I had to do was tick the ones I wanted to invite – pretty much all of them! Within a few minutes, people were pressing the ‘interested’ button, or even more pleasingly the one that says ‘going’.

Like any good party, an element of planning was needed next. It was no good me just sitting there at my computer for nine hours on the day, typing ‘Hi. Come in and buy my book!’ every time someone new turned up. So, I started thinking about what music I should be playing to kick things off, having some (virtual) cake and champagne on offer as people arrived, maybe letting off a few fireworks once it got dark, and – of course – those competitions with prizes that I’d promised.

viv-blog-divorce-cakeI opened up a new folder on my computer and started saving stuff! Photos of balloons, champagne glasses, fireworks going off, cats partying, and lots of enticing cakes (I even found a pic of a cupcake with ‘Happy divorce day’ on top – perfect for the theme of my book), along with welcome and goodbye pictures, all of which I could dip into quickly throughout the event to help me keep things lively and fun.

Next, the prizes! I found a company that would produce some lovely ballpoint pens with an image of my book along the side and ordered enough to give a few away while still hanging on to a couple for my own use. Notebooks and post-it notes were a good idea too – perfect for both writers and readers. I found bags of heart-shaped confetti cut from romance novels, and some lovely heart-shaped stickers too, keeping one bag as a prize while opening the other so I could pop a little pink heart on the back of the envelopes when sending out prizes to the winners. Well, it is a romance novel, after all!

viv-blog-penI had a few competitions in mind, although a couple more evolved during the party itself, and it was lovely to see people joining in all through the day. One competition involved choosing the right music to reflect both the divorce and ‘wanting him back’ themes. My own daughter won that one on the day, but I deny any nepotism as her choices were just brilliant! Another involved a picture of a tie – What did that have to do with my book? It didn’t take long for two guests to arrive at the right answer at much the same time. It was made from the Ross tartan – and Ross is the surname of my main characters! A pen to each of them. Who would play my characters in a film? How old did people think my character Gladys might be, based purely on her name? Again, a couple of guests were spot on – she is 89, turning 90 during the course of the book. And the age-old question: Who is your favourite romantic hero? Mr Darcy, Romeo, Prince Charming were all put forward, but in the absence of anyone suggesting Poldark, I went for Kevin Costner in ‘Dances With Wolves’ as the winner. I do so love Kevin Costner!

It was heartening to see so many people say they had bought the book and were looking forward to reading it, and I did try to keep an eye on the Amazon rankings as the party went on. It rose from being lower than 100,000th in the Kindle store at the start of the day to around 3000th at its peak, so I like to think the buzz being created was doing its bit. Now I just need the reviews to start rolling in to encourage others to buy it too, especially while it’s still only 99 pence.

It was tiring, staying by the screen for so long, especially as I was babysitting my little granddaughter at the same time, and I was having to keep popping over to twitter to keep abreast of (and retweet) HQ’s promotional efforts, including their offer of a free copy of the book to a lucky reader at 4pm. As soon as I knew who had won, I congratulated her and invited her to the party, where she later won one of my pens in the ‘Who should play them in a film?’ competition!

But, was it worth it? Well, what a fantastic way to reach out to readers! It’s hard to say how many sales the party helped me to secure, or how many people who had never heard of me (or my book) now have, but I did enjoy it, very much, and I hope those who came along did too!

 

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/VivienHampshireAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VivienHampshire

Link to buy the book:   http://amzn.to/2cOjPIn

Author bio:

viv-hampshireVivien Hampshire was born and brought up in West London where she still lives and works. She has been writing short stories for almost twenty years, and regularly contributes women’s fiction to a variety of UK magazines, including Woman’s Weekly, The People’s Friend, and My Weekly. She loves cats, reading, taking part in quizzes and TV game shows, sitting in the sunshine and eating chocolate, and is an avid cryptic crossword puzzler. She is a Council member and the competitions co-ordinator for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association. ‘How To Win Back Your Husband’ is her first commercially published novel.

Book blurb:

how-to-win-back-your-husband-coverNicci has made one stupid and seemingly unforgivable mistake and, after eight years together, her husband Mark is divorcing her. Her best friend is determined to help her get over it, start enjoying life again and move on, but Nicci knows getting over Mark just isn’t an option – she still loves him and she wants him back! With no clear plan in mind and only thirty days left until the divorce is finalised, the race is on to prove her love, regain his trust and save her marriage, before it’s too late. A debut romantic comedy with a sprinkling of winter magic!

 

 

Thank you, Viv. We wish you all the very best for your novel.

Remember, Remember: A Novel Approach to War

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, Elaine and Francesca reflect on the wars and on their own World War One novels.

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Elaine: Remembrance Day and all that it stands for is important to me. I was brought up in the armed forces and the 11th November was sacrosanct in my home. I have made sure that my children have grown up knowing it is important to remember that men and women made the ultimate sacrifice so they can have the freedom of life and speech. I am not interested in the politics of it all; for me the poppy is a symbol of peace, courage and loss, amongst other things.

A newspaper headline the day WW1 started for Great Britain

A newspaper headline the day WW1 started for Great Britain

The research I have done for my historical novel has made this year even more poignant. The patriotism to King and country was astonishing and the numbers in which men volunteered to fight was incredible. Then there was the work that the women did on the home front. Trying to find the words to convey this in my novel, without getting carried away and it becoming a war story, has been difficult.

I have read many articles on how writing a historical romance is not taken seriously. However, the facts still have to be correct, but they are woven into the story so the readers don’t necessarily take them in, but it adds reality to the story.

While I am fortunate to have never lost anybody close to me from either World War, I have lost friends, or have friends whose lives have been changed forever, through various subsequent conflicts. The day never fails to reduce me to tears as I remember them and all that have gone before.

@RobertsElaine11

It hasn't been easy trying to translate the writing on this Italian document.

The Italian document from World War 1.

Francesca: This is always a very poignant time of year for me. As I ‘remember’ members of my families who died in both wars. I say, ‘remember’, as obviously I never met them. Despite that, I still feel a profound sense of loss. 

Two of my great uncles, Tommy and Cyril Jones were both killed in 1943 . They were 35 and 22 respectively. Tommy was killed in action in Sicily. Cyril died at sea when his ship, the HMS Fidelity, was hit by a U-boat. 

My grandfather, Lorenzo, died in 1915 at the age of 29, from septicaemia caused by a gunshot to his thigh, in a Red Cross hospital in Modena. These details are contained on a hand-written document that belonged to my father, which gives an account of Lorenzo’s death. 

But it was a kind of non-war record that got me started on the historical novel I’m currently working on. A ‘hint’ on the Ancestry website led me to discharge papers which hugh-morgan-jnr-discharge-ww1did in fact turn out to belong to a maternal great-grandfather, Hugh Morgan. I’ve never seen a photo of him (he died in 1927), but I know from the document that at 24 years of age he stood 5′ 5″, weighed 140 pounds, and that his chest measured 38″ when expanded. It also tells me he had tachycardia and that his heart beat at 130 bpm. And that’s the reason he was being discharged in 1915, after only 227 days service.

It was the stamped message on the form that gave me the story: ‘Never likely to become an efficient soldier.’ Poor bloke. He’d marched away with a Pal’s Battalion, wanting to do his bit, only to be rejected. How did he feel about it? Relieved? Annoyed?Ashamed he wasn’t up to it? Gradually I wove the beginnings of a story from it, but I’m not entirely sure where it will end. I look forward to finding out.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Food and Wine, Oh and Writing

Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts invaded Ramsgate for a writing retreat last week with fellow writers Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman 

Views from balcony

View from the sitting room

 

Our writing retreat had been planned for quite some time: we had picked our house, packed our things and brought plenty of wine.

 

 

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And it was twice that size to begin with!

It was a week to celebrate. We had just entered an ice cream parlour when Elaine Everest discovered she’d made it to number 16 in The Sunday Times Bestseller List, so we had the biggest ice cream ever seen, followed by champagne, of course.

Views of the harbour

 

 

 

 

Views of the harbour

Views of the harbour

 

Some of us were writing: Francesca wrote the second part of her serial for People’s Friend and Elaine R started her second novel. Elaine E and Natalie were busy doing edits. We each picked a space in the house to work in, though some of us could be found from time to time on the balcony in the sun, and even across the road on the terrace of the snack bar. We worked hard, but we managed to enjoy the glorious weather, the view of the sea, eating and drinking. We spent a hilarious hour one afternoon sitting by the marina, coming up with book titles, eliciting some funny looks from people close by.

 

at Corby's Tearoom with Pat Corby, cousin of writer Deirdre Palmer (and well recommended by her.)

At Corby’s Tearoom with Pat Corby, cousin of writer Deirdre Palmer (and well recommended by her.)

You've got to have fish and chips when you're at the seaside.

You’ve got to have fish and chips when you’re at the seaside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bohemian Belgian Bar was on our doorstep.

The bohemian Belgian Bar was on our doorstep.

Reliving our childhoods in the arcade below us.

Reliving our childhoods in the arcade below us.

A brick three piece suite spotted in a courtyard.

A brick three piece suite spotted in a courtyard.

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday, the four of us travelled up to London for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) summer party, where the contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award gathered and the overall winner was announced. This year it was Clare Harvey, author of the Gunner Girls, and our congratulations go to her. This wonderful event gives you the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. The established writers are always willing to give advice and share what they have gone through to get where they are. It makes you realise everyone experiences something similar so you’re not on your own. It was a good night, which obviously involved more food and wine.

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Elaine Everest and Francesca.

Natalie Kleinman

Natalie Kleinman

Our own Elaine.

Our own Elaine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was soon time to pack up and return home. It was an enjoyable week, but as someone famous once said, “There’s no place like home”.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Does the scenery or area distract you, or are you prolific in your writing? Let us know your views.

@FCapaldiBurgess & RobertsElaine11

You can also read Francesca’s post on the advantages and fun of writing retreats here

Welcome back to author Karen Aldous

We welcome back author Karen Aldous, whose new novel, One Moment at Sunrise was released on Monday.

Karen Aldous AuthorThank you for inviting me on to Write Minds blog Francesca and Elaine – I love these questions but I’ve had to think long and hard.

Q: Evie Grant is the main protagonist in your new novel. How do you come up with characters, and are any of them based on real people?

A really interesting question. Most of my characters come to me instinctively from a location, or sense of place. Evie, the main character in One Moment at Sunrise for example walked into the room at a villa I stayed at near the Canal du Midi. It was heart-breaking because she lived in this beautiful house but was tragically lonely. Over the days I was there, I asked her why, and her story soon took shape. In my novel, The Chateau, Agnes-Francesia came via a dream. Intuitively, I knew where she was and found her in the Chateau de Chillon near Montreux in Switzerland and explored more of the history of the high incidents of witch hunts in the area centuries ago. It was as though she wanted her story told. In The Vineyard and The Riviera, as soon as I arrived in Provence, one beautiful November day, Lizzie was there in a Luberon village dreaming of owning her own vineyard, but she was still young and longed to live somewhere vibrant and cosmopolitan but still able to access the beautiful landscape of Provence. Spending an afternoon in Cannes inspired her spirit further, so a few years later, I returned and found her apartment and the beauty salon and the story really began to take on a life of its own. I also had her parent’s farm setting in my mind from a local valley I walk in.

Q: Your latest novel refers to the place of the peasant women in the building of the Canal du Midi. How much of this story is true history, and how did you come by it and research it?

I gathered some material about the Canal du Midi after seeing the statue of Paul-Pierre Riquet; the visionary who is credited with building it and I could never take that away from him. However, from all the info and books I had about the canal, I read a snippet about peasant women being involved in the building of the canal and that immediately sparked my imagination. I just kept searching for more information on the internet, posing different questions until I came up with an amazing academic book which had much of the supporting evidence I needed about these women to make it work. So it’s very likely the peasant women did have a major input into the hydraulic methods Riquet needed and, again, I thought their story needed to be told.

Q: What do you think Evie would put into Room 101 and why, and what would you put in?

I have to giggle because, Evie in One Moment at Sunrise would unquestionably put Seb Wilde in there. He is such a horrid character and really shouldn’t have been put on this earth in the first place.

What would I put in? Lots. Diseases, wrinkles, spots and scars. Nobody wants them and they create so much distress among us.

Q: If you could be any other author, who would you choose, and why?

This is a really difficult question but I’m going to say Elena Ferrante. Her writing is immaculate. So honest, uninhibited, perfectly paced and beautiful. Every scene swoons you, leaving you dribbling for more. Who wouldn’t wish to achieve that.

Thank you for taking the time out for this interview, Karen. Good luck with the book.

SunriseEvie Grant has spent two years hidden away in a quiet French village, longing to escape her beautiful villa with its blue-shuttered windows. Maybe this summer, the father of her child will keep his broken promises and return to whisk her away to another life. One way or another, Evie’s determined to stop feeling like his dirty little secret…

Yet when a mysterious stranger almost knocks Evie off her bicycle early one morning, her world begins to change in ways she never expected. Embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery, Evie begins to face her darkest fears and rebuild her fragile dreams. But can she ever truly break free from her gilded cage and learn to love again?

Karen’s books published by CarinaUK/Harper Collins are available on Amazon:

One Moment at Sunrise

The Chateau

The Vineyard

The Riviera

You can also follow Karen:

Twitter: KarenAldous_

Facebook: KarenAldousAuthor

Pinterest: KarenAldousPinterest

Website: KarenAldousAuthorWebsite

 

@FCapaldiBurgess                    @RobertsElaine11

Oh, What A Night… Romantic Novel Awards 2016

It was a sparkling night to celebrate the Romantic Novel Awards, better known as the RoNAs, at the magnificent Gladstone Library in Whitehall. Here is our night in pictures.

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Jane Pollard and Elaine Everest catch up before the awards begin

Jane Jackson and Elaine Everest catch up before the awards begin

 

The air was tingling with excitement as we sipped our wine

The air was tingling with excitement as we sipped our wine. Natalie Kleinman, Sarah Stephenson, Elaine E, Rosemary Goodacre and our own Elaine.

 

Time for a chat with friends before sitting down. Karen Aldous chats with Sarah.

 

Getting cameras ready for the event.

Getting cameras ready for the event. Francesca, Melanie Rivers and Elaine E.

 

Who do you think will win?

Who do you think will win? Karen chats with Kathleen McGurl.

 

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Pass the bubbly!

 

Fern & Jane enjoying the evening.

Jane Wenham-Jones hosted the evening and Fern Britton presented the prizes.

 

Melanie Hudson, winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel with 'The Wedding Cake Tree'.

Melanie Hudson, winner of the Contemporary Romantic Novel with ‘The Wedding Cake Tree’.

 

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Emma Hannigan, winner of The Epic Romantic Novel with ‘The Secrets We Share’.

 

Iona Grey, winner of the Historical Romantic Novel for 'Letters to the Lost'.

Iona Grey, winner of the Historical Romantic Novel for ‘Letters to the Lost’.

 

Milly Johnson, winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel with 'Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe'.

Milly Johnson, winner of the Romantic Comedy Novel with ‘Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café’.

 

Annie O'Neil, winner of the RoNA Rose with 'Doctor... To Duchess?'

Annie O’Neil, winner of the RoNA Rose with ‘Doctor… To Duchess?’.

 

Lucy Inglis, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel with 'Crow Mountain'

Lucy Inglis, winner of the Young Adult Romantic Novel with ‘Crow Mountain’.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Claire Lorimer.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Claire Lorimer.

 

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Anita Burgh

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Anita Burgh.

 

Iona Grey won the Romantic Novel of the Year: Letters To The Lost

Iona Grey stepped up once more as the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, which was sponsored by Goldsboro Books.

 

Congratulations to all the winning and short listed authors.

You can see more photos from the event here: 2016 RoNA Awards Event

@FCapaldiBurgess            @RobertsElaine11

Setting Out on a Journey

Francesca takes a journey around the settings she’s used so far

At the moment I’m working on a number of projects, and it got me thinking about the different settings I’m using. On the whole I’ve used known settings in my short stories, novels and novellas, though I’m likely to rename them and take liberties. Some of the locations are from my childhood, like Littlehampton, Worthing and Brighton (renamed Costerham, Ording and Telmstone respectively).

Brighton, taken from the Wheel.

Brighton, taken from the Wheel.

Worthing Pier.

Worthing Pier. Something I’m working on currently is set in Worthing, as Worthing, and I hope to have news of that soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there are the settings I’ve discovered through family research like the former mining town of Abertysswg (where my mother was born) and Castle Pill, near Milford Haven, where one of my great-great grandfathers was born. These settings gave me the idea for three short stories, one about someone researching her family (like me!) and two historicals set in 1908 and 1915.

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Some of my ancestors lived in Castle Pill, somewhere around this field, as far as I can tell.

Abertysswg, all evidence of the coal mines invisible these days. My mother was born in a house in the middle terrace on the hill.

Abertysswg, all evidence of the coal mines invisible these days. My mother was born in a house in the middle terrace on the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A novella set in ‘Telmstone’ also has a section set in Rome. I’ve visited there three times and had longed to use it in my writing. And what could be a more passionate setting for a romance?

Newcastle: two of my characters stood on Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Newcastle: two of my characters stood on Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

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Piazza della Rotunda in Rome, with the Pantheon in the background. A bustling setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stories have taken me on excursions to many other places, including Skye, Margate, Brixham, Newcastle and the coast of Ceridigion. Of all the settings I’ve used, the only one I haven’t known or visited, as far as I’m aware, is Brisbane, where I relied on Google and Google Earth for information. Having had a good look at it, I’d love to visit there some time in the future.

Brixham Miracles 2008

Brixham: my daughter and brother-in-law are on the dinghy. This inspired two stories

While I’m writing stories in different locations, I often feel I’m actually there. It’s a great way of visiting anywhere you like as you sit at your desk. Or is that just me?

Happy travels.

Do you use settings you’ve visited, or do you write outside of your experience?

@FCapaldiBurgess