Sneak peek and a short extract… upcoming book The Spy Within: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 6.

It’s that time again. I’m working on a new book, the next in the Dottie Manderson mysteries series set in the 1930s and featuring an amateur detective Dottie Manderson. The new book is to be called The Spy Within and I plan and fervently hope to release it in July(ish) of this year.

In case you haven’t heard of these books, I published the first in the series, Night and Day in 2015, and it’s been followed by The Mantle of God, Scotch Mist (a novella), The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish (sorry about the long and unwieldly title of that one, at home we call it Dickie Dawlish for short, even though Richard hated his name shortened) and last year, The Thief of St Martins came out.

The main character is Dottie Manderson, obviously, she is the one the books mainly are about, and although she isn’t always the one who solves the mystery, she is nevertheless habitually embroiled in the action. Dottie is only 19 in the first book and ages gradually through the series. In the one I’m writing now, The Spy Within, she is almost 21. She is from a well-to-do family and after leaving her ladies’ college at 18, she worked more or less full time as a mannequin (model) for a Mrs Carmichael at her independent fashion warehouse, Carmichael and Jennings, Exclusive Modes, in London. Dottie lives with her parents, and has a married sister, Flora. Dottie and Flora are very close. George, Flora’s husband, adores Dottie almost as much as his wife does, she is very much his sister too.

Unfortunately the books aren’t quite stand-alone. That is to say, there are ongoing story-lines that progress through the novels. I wish I’d though about that a bit more carefully when writing them because with book 3, Scotch Mist being a novella, and therefore cheaper to buy, people often buy it and then haven’t got a clue what’s going on. I really must revise it with a bit more explanation to help those who dive into the series at book 3. Still, we live and learn, I guess! Hopefully I won’t do that next time around.

So what’s new for The Spy Within?

Well, those who have read the books up to this point will be aware that Dottie has been seeing a ‘gentleman’ by the name of Gervase Parfitt for a couple of books. Sadly in the last book, he let her down rather badly by not supporting her when she needed him most. Oh, Dottie had such hopes for Gervase to begin with. But he seems to be not quite as nice as she’d thought, and there’s a rumour going round that he’s likely to be substituted.

If you’re Team William, this could be music to your ears.

William Hardy, police inspector and all-round good guy (most of the time) has been in the background for a while now, and if you’ve loved all the flirty looks and romantic thoughts, then prepare to enjoy some more. It’s Valentine’s day in 1935, and love is in the air. I think. Or is it? You’ll just have to wait and see.

In other news, the Manderson’s maid, Janet is at last tying the knot with police sergeant Frank Maple in this book. They’ve been walking out together since the first in the series. Don’t expect any tears, it’ll be a happy day for all. And it’s about time they made things all above board, because as Dottie said in The Mantle of God, ‘I wouldn’t mind if they did any actual walking out. And how Mother hasn’t caught them, I’ll never know. From what I can make out, they spend all their time indoors.’

So that’s about all I can say at the moment. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, please take a look at a draft version of Chapter One here. Just bear in mind, I might change it a bit by publication day, and hopefully I’ll remember to tidy it up and make it a bit more succinct. I hope you enjoy it.

All that I need to do now is to say a huge thank you to my family and friends and some wonderful, loyal, encouraging and amazing readers who say nice things that cheer me up when I’m down and keep me keeping on. Thank you all. XXX

***

A quick recap of 2019.

So that was that! Here we are (almost) at the end of December, traditionally time to look back and reflect on the passing year.

Brexit loomed large in many people’s thoughts. I was dismayed by the outcome of the election. Again. I voted. My family voted. It didn’t work, and now there’s nothing we can do but get on with our lives. When I was a child, they used to say of naughty boys, ignore him and he’ll get tired of showing off and go away. So that is my new strategy with regards to Brexit, and Boris. Onward and upward, guys, and let’s hope for better things next year.

This year, I’ve published two books. I released a stand-alone novel (never a good idea) called Easy Living. I’ve written a lot of books over the years. Some of them–okay, a lot of them–too dire to be inflicted on the reading public. But Easy Living has a very special place in my heart. And even though I knew it would only sell in small numbers (very small, actually), I wanted to release it anyway, just for myself. If you’re interested, you can find out a bit more about Easy Living here.

Then just a few short weeks ago I released The Thief of St Martins. It’s book 5 of the Dottie Manderson 1930s murder mysteries, and I’m so pleased to be able to say it is selling quite well, and a few people have said some wonderful things about it, which is so encouraging. It took me the best part of a year to write. I know these days we are all supposed to write between four and six novels a year, plus write blog posts, and put together special free giveaways, but I just can’t achieve that level of output–and I don’t know if that amount of pressure is healthy.

I do blog–see, look, I’m doing it right now–although I admit I’m not always sure what to blog about. I feel embarrassed talking about my books all the time, thinking that might be a big turn-off for readers. We Brits don’t cope well with self-promotion–from a very early age, we’re taught that it’s bad manners and is boastful. So I try to write about things I’ve discovered during my research, or I write to help or support other writers, because that’s writing what I know, as writing coaches (mistakenly) tell us to do. But I try to come up with something most weeks. I’m rewarded by lovely comments and conversations with people, and by seeing the numbers of my blog followers gently rising week on week.

What else have I done this year? I’ve read quite a lot. I’ve done some editing and proofreading, a lot of social media promo, and I’ve spent hours playing on Canva and Bookbrush, as I love to create simple graphics, and find it quite therapeutic and relaxing. I’ve also started drafting several novels and novellas, some of which may never be seen or heard of again, and some of which you (hopefully) will read next year.

What shall I do next year? I’ll be blogging again, of course. And reading, as always. And then I plan to release two novels in 2020, at least one of which will be a Dottie Manderson book. I’m starting serious work on The Spy Within: Dottie Manderson mysteries book 6 in January, and will hopefully finish the first draft by the start of March. If that seems a long way off, can I say that I’ve already written four chapters? Only another 18-20 to go…. I’ve got other ideas too, but who knows what will actually happen? There just isn’t enough time for all the ideas I want to write about. I might watch some TV. I’ll keep on with my Polish lessons. I might do a spot of gardening. Housework will come in there somewhere, way down the list. Maybe I’ll travel? Who knows?

So now all that’s left is for me to say a massive thank you to all my readers, to my friends and family, for the incredible, jaw-dropping support and encouragement I’ve received. I honestly couldn’t have done 2019 without you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, where’s the alcohol and chocolate?

***

Writer’s Showcase: Caron Allan

This week I’m cheating yet again, as I’m reblogging a post about me from Christy Oslund’s website https://colliedogpress.wordpress.com
Take a look if you’ve got ten minutes to kill, it’s full of fascinating insights into authors’ lives and work.
And thank you, Christy, for taking the time, and for the great conversations. I appreciate it.

Collie Dog Press

Genre: Mystery (Friendship Can Be Murder series), Romantic Historical Mystery (Dottie Manderson series).

Background: I wrote my first novel Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts! in 1970 and unfortunately it is now lost because my mum kept it in a drawer with my drawings, a knitted bookmark and a tea-cozy I made. I started reading adventures at age seven or eight and was reading Agatha Christie by age nine. [Eventually] I remember sitting on my bed in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK, and thinking, I want to write a new story, but what shall I write about? Then I thought, what is it I am afraid of?

Writing Highlight: I had to overcome [close] people telling me that a) I was no good as a writer, b) it was wicked thing to want to write fiction, and c) who did I think I was anyway, thinking I could be a writer? So…

View original post 277 more words

Gold or silver?

I found these notes in an old journal. I had been pondering the attributes, from a writer’s point of view, of gold and silver, and how whether as metal or colour, they are portrayed in literary works.

Gold is the colour of royalty, of quality, of the authorised, and acknowledged, of states and state, religions and churches and faiths, of the accepted and acceptable, of righteousness.

Gold is pure, incorruptible, reliable, ‘pure gold’, good, honest and forthright.

Gold is given in blessing and to enrich, it is security, savings and wealth. Gold is warm and appealing. It is masculine, and constant; the colour of the noonday sun, giving life to all and sight to all. The ‘gold standard’ indicates a status achieved, a level of existence and compliance, of regularity and trust, and a line by which all else is measured. Gold is laid up for the righteous, we are told.

But silver? No. Silver is ‘other’. Silver is secretive and fleeting, it is mercurial and unremarkable in nature, and always not quite good enough: doomed to be second best. It changes hands easily, each time serving or claiming a new master.

Silver works its arts by night, it is hard, feminine and bright and although it’s the colour of small change, ready money, the easily-obtained (for some people, anyway), it really is a confidence trickster: appearing cheap and easy to get, but actually constantly demanding more from us, just that little bit beyond our grasp.

It is the colour of the stars and the light of the moon, alluring, beautiful, cold. Silvery and secret, sinister and elusive, it dances through the sky, always out of reach, now hidden, now displayed. The thirty pieces of silver, the betrayer’s coin, the turner of hearts and souls, the illicit, the unauthorised, the denied, or the denier.

 

These gorgeous images from Steve Bidmead, Arek Socha, Kevin Schneider and Patricia Alexandre, all at Pixabay.com 

***

Between a rock and a hard place: what was it like in the 30s? Part One

Madeleine Carroll: The 39 Steps (Hitchcock 1938). She was once the highest paid actress in the world and in 1938 earned £250,000.

I’m fascinated by the 1930s. That’s why I write a series of murder mysteries set in the 1930s and featuring Dottie Manderson, a young female amateur detective, as the protagonist. I wanted to show just how different life was for everyone, not just young women, in the 1930s. I’m writing from a British perspective, as that is my own nationality and my research and writing centres around this, but the era presented both challenges and successes for many nations around the world. Let’s go back to Britain in the 1930s. What was life like for the majority of people? It was very much a time of transition. Things were still getting back to normal after the war, as villages and towns slowly rebuilt themselves literally and figuratively. Attitudes were poles apart, with very ‘modern’ liberal ideas sitting at the same dinner table as conventional, very reactionary, right wing beliefs.

To set the scene for this inter-war period: the gaiety and extravagance of the 20s was over. The Great War, as WWI was known, was becoming more distant, and the Second World War was as yet undreamed of. In fact, there was a common consensus regarding the Great War that ‘it could never happen again’. It was ‘great’ in the sense of huge and terrible, not in our modern sense of brilliant and something admirable. Even language has changed since then! It’s no exaggeration to say that millions of lives were changed forever. There were an estimated 40 million casualties, a little less than half of whom died, the rest were injured, many very seriously. 40 million. How could such an incomprehensibly vast sum of people die or be injured in the space of just a few short years? Is it any wonder that people, especially the young, were a little bit crazy, a little bit over-exuberant in the 20s? Yet even in the early 30s, there were already the rumblings and murmurings that would lead to a repeat of that terrible disaster.

While their menfolk went to war, thousands of women left their homes to take on their jobs. For many, working outside the home was a new and liberating experience. But when the war was over, the men came back and they wanted their jobs back. The newly-emancipated women were in many cases reluctant to go home and cook and clean and have babies. They had their own money for the first time, they mixed with other women and learned new skills, often embracing possibilities that had never been available before. How could they give all that up? On both sides of the gender divide, there was social tension over the conflict between a desire to maintain the status quo, and a desire for freedom and equality. This continued to grow throughout the 20s, into the 30s and is still an issue today.

And let’s not forget that millions of men simply never did come back, and their wives, sweethearts, mothers, daughters and sisters had to become their own breadwinners. It’s not very surprising that they also wanted the same advantages as men, in terms of work, pay, sick pay, working conditions, opportunities for advancement and education. Women had won the right to vote in 1918, following many years of campaigning by both men and women. But the right to vote was only for women over 30 who were married. (Or who were voted parliamentary representatives, an almost, but not quite, impossible task) Was it presumed, as was often said, ‘your husband/father will tell you how to vote’? It wasn’t until 1928 that everyone, regardless of gender or marital status, was allowed to vote, and this came down to everyone over 18 in 1967. But in the 1930s there was still the sense of something new, something experimental, and many women either didn’t want the responsibility of political decision-making, or lacked the information they needed to make an informed choice. Women began to move into political life, but still very much, generally speaking, in a supporting role. Nancy Astor was the first British MP to take her seat in Parliament in 1919, with Margaret Bondfield, a Labour politician, becoming a cabinet minister in 1924.

People of colour and of different backgrounds were, in the majority of cases, socially separate from the white Christian majority. Again this continues today, doesn’t it, though it seems incredible to discriminate against someone due to skin colour. Reading the popular literature of the day could lead you to think there were no people of colour in Britain in the 1930s. But there have been vibrant non-white communities living in Britain for over two thousand years. We just didn’t admit it. People of colour were treated with hostility and resentment, and opportunities were often denied them through financial penalties or social stigma and racism. But here too, there were pressing demands for social change, and many welfare and interest group sprang up, working to change attitudes and lives practically and politically, for example, The League of Coloured Peoples and The Negro Welfare Association, to name two. However, there were successful non-white professionals such as lawyers as early as the 1850s, for example, John Thorpe and in the 1860s, Monmohon Ghosh. (More info available from the Society of Black Lawyers) And the Jazz age (1920s and 1930s) was enabling black musicians, artists, entertainers and actors to produce and perform their art, albeit without the same freedom and acceptance of white people.

Next week: Life in the 1930s: Technology and Fashion.

***

Lenny Kravitz and me

As soon as the calendar is turned to the page for September, like many people, I begin to think of Autumn. Yet it’s still technically summertime, and the meteorologists have promised us another heat-wave, so really the year is less advanced than I imagine. We’re still in the third quarter, after all.

But we can’t help looking forward, can we? We have a tendency to push ahead a bit faster than we should, always looking to the future, the next thing, always rounding up. Do we have a primitive urge to be cautious going out to meet trouble before it reaches our home? We seem to over-prepare these days (think how much you buy for Christmas or any time the supermarkets are shut for just one day), and we have a tendency to expect and assume the worst, whilst professing to hope for the best.

For several months now, I’ve been thinking of myself as 58. I try to crowbar it into as many conversations as I can, as if I were 90: ‘I’m 58, you know!’  Partly it’s because I can hardly believe it myself. On the inside I feel like I’m still 14? 16? 30? But in actual fact, I’m not 58 until mid-October. So, I’m still 57, yet I actually only embraced the concept of being 57 when I was—you’ve guessed it–561∕2. I know I’m not the only one. Why do we do things like that? Is it so har dot be in the present?

Remember that old song Enjoy Yourself? The line goes, Enjoy yourself, It’s later than you think. What a depressing thought: It’s already too late. Wow. Do we want to believe that? If so, we might as well give up now; what’s the point of trying?

I’m trying to avoid the usual clichés, ‘take time to smell the roses’, ‘it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey’, but it’s quite difficult to do that and get my point across. (Yes I do have one…even if it’s a different one to my planned finishing point.)

I have a stubborn streak. I think most writers do. We need it to get us through all the demands of writing, rewriting, polishing, revising, rewriting, editing… part of me says, it’s never too late. There’s always more to come, a bit more you can do. Like a soap opera, the story never concludes, the writers just add another episode. Like the Lenny Kravitz song, It ain’t over til it’s o-o-o-over.

I’m going to live my life, and end on a cliffhanger. On my gravestone, I want the words: ‘To be continued…’

***

Scrapbooking for writers

ilonkasscrapbookdesign-783554_1920Leading on from last week’s post about inspiration and ideas, I thought this week I’d mention that I feel it’s useful for a writer to make notes of ideas that could be used for future projects.

Once upon a time I used to buy scrapbooks, and cut and paste – literally not figuratively – scraps into these books to give me resources to use in my writing. I might have stories cut out of the newspaper, programmes from events, pamphlets, photos, anything that looked like it could be useful for generating a story. These were my ‘ideas files’. These days scrapbooks can be virtual rather than actual, Notepad documents or Word documents saved in a folder named ‘Ideas’ on my laptop, but I still do it. On my Kindle Fire, I use Evernote too, which I love, as it can sync with your computer, so you’ve got all the same notes in both places. (I’m sure there is other notemaking software out there 😉 )

I still make notes about all sorts of things: snatches of eavesdropped conversation, the way the sky looked on a particular day, a memory, a description, a character sketch, a question, an unusual word, a news story. These things go in my ideas file until they can be slotted together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Some are assembled to make this picture, others combine to create something different. Some may never used, but who knows? So long as I have them, I have the potential building blocks for a story. If you follow my Facebook page, you will know I have recently been obsessing about surnames, especially women’s surnames: Webster (a female weaver), Brewster (a female brewer), Spinster (you guessed it – a female spinner!) even the word ‘wife’, which may be a corruption of wefen – to weave. (And also the word hussy from husif – a housewife…) These have all come from various sources to be filed and documented and mulled over in my ideas ‘scrapbook’. And when I read a book a while ago, the author had made special mention of a fashion shade popular in the 1890s and 1900s, the name of the colour was Philamot – from the French feuille morte – dead leaves – a disappointingly dingy-sounding colour – but the word conjured ideas and even felt like a possible title or name. All noted for future possible interest.

I find it so useful to keep these little notes and reminders. I have got used to the idea that although I think I will remember something, I never do, so I have to make notes; it’s a bit like leaving myself a trail of breadcrumbs. When I am ready to begin writing, I find it helpful to try a few of these ideas and see which ones seem to fit together, then I stick them all into a Word document, print it up in draft quality, and staple the top of the page to the inside of the cover of the new notebook I’m using for the new story. (I have to have a new notebook, or rather a set of small notebooks, for each new novel, and I always begin to write in longhand, at least in the early stages, even if I end up later moving to the laptop and writing directly onto the screen.) So I have my little ideas ready, I can refer to them, adapt them, and if I don’t use them, they are still saved on the computer for the next new story. To avoid getting too set in my view about how a snippet might be used, I give each one a very broad title or category: ‘1930s or 1940s’, ‘country house type story’, so that ideas can be used in different ways and ‘recycled’ as required.

 

Top Tips To Kickstart Your Muse

file0001721418248

If, like me, you sometimes sit and stare at a blank page for an hour or more without writing a thing then give up and go off to do something else, you might want to give some of these tips a try. I’ve tried them all and found them useful at one time or another. Some are fairly conventional ideas for productivity, others are just things I came up with that helped me.

  1. Listen to music

You might listen to your usual favourites, or I sometimes like to try something new that I haven’t listened to before or even play something I’m not too keen on to get the creativity flowing. Or maybe go for something you haven’t listened to for a very long time – songs that were out when you were a kid!

  1. Go for a walk

I know this is a commonly prescribed antidote to lack of creativity, but it does work. Go out in the pouring rain and release your inner savage, or go out and enjoy the wonders of nature, or walk along the city streets and visualise your gumshoe on the trail of a bad guy. Physical activity wakes up the body and gets the blood flowing to the brain. Even if you don’t come back from your walk full of ideas, at least you got away from your desk for a while and got some fresh air.

  1. Eavesdrop on other peoples’ conversations

This is a great way to pick up ideas and hear dialogue in action. It’s also a great way to get punched on the nose if you’re too obvious. Snatches of conversation half-heard and half-remembered can provide great what-if moments.

  1. Visit a gallery or museum

I once attended a workshop at a museum and we were encouraged to write short pieces about some of the exhibits. These included Neolithic artefacts and a Victorian christening gown. It was not only a great idea but a memorable experience. Go to an art gallery or a museum or country house with your trusty notebook. Take a look at what lies behind the glass and imagine the person who touched, created, discovered, used or found a particular item. People those empty halls with characters – what do they say to one another? Make sketches. Write descriptions. Take photos, or if that’s not allowed, buy a post card from the gift shop.

  1. Look through the images on Morguefile or Shutterstock or other image sites

See if anything intrigues you or inspires you to write a short story, a poem, a simple description or analyse your own feelings when you look at a picture. What does it make you think of and why? How do you feel?

  1. Do you collect anything? If not you, does someone close to you have a collection?

Spend some time writing about the first item in the collection and how it was acquired or obtained. What was the last item to join the collection? What would happen if someone stole your collection? How would that make you feel? How would you get it back? What would you do?

  1. Sit somewhere different to your usual writing spot

I usually write at my desk, but sometimes I like to go out to a café or pub and write, or I could write in a library. I could write outside if the weather is fine. In the past I have even sat in my son’s bedroom at his desk and written for hours. A change is as good as a rest we are told, and a new ‘venue’ can help to get things flowing. You could also try using a different notebook or computer, a different pen or write at a different time of day.

  1. Pick a story from your local newspaper

Write it in your own words; be an investigative journalist and try to think of a new outcome or a way of finding out more, or imagine you are interviewing someone featured in the newspaper, whether a sports’ personality or a victim of a crime.

  1. Go to the library

And have a rummage through the reference section or any section that interests you; poke through the periodicals and nosy at the noticeboard.

  1. Visit a graveyard

Wander around and read a few headstones. Look at the style of the gravestones. Try to imagine the people buried there, the lives they lived and how they died, picture their families and their homes and workplaces. Sit in the church or graveyard for a while and try to imagine who might have sat there before you. How did they feel?

  1. Meditate

A little relaxing meditation could release some stress and pent-up anxiety and enable you to refresh yourself mentally. Sit comfortably on the floor, with a notepad and pen in front of you, turned to a fresh page. Close your eyes. Spend a few minutes breathing deeply and slowly until you feel you could almost doze off to sleep. Then without thinking about what you are doing, take up your pen and begin writing – something, anything, just don’t try to analyse or make sense of any thoughts, but let the words pour out of your pen as if there was nothing between your brain and your notebook. Music or candles and incense sometimes help with this process.

Most of us have times when we can’t seem to write the way we want to, or maybe not at all. Don’t worry about it too much and allow yourself the freedom to know when you need to rest and when you need to try to help things along.

 

Author Interview – Nancy Jardine

ccnancyjardine

This week I’m honoured to be interviewing massively successful multi-genre writer  Nancy Jardine.

Q1. Nancy, welcome and thank you so much for agreeing to be victimised interviewed. Congrats on the upcoming publication of your latest book, The Taexali Game which will be out soon. Could you please tell us a little more about the kind of books you write?

I write in a variety of fiction sub-genres which include historical romantic  adventure; contemporary romantic mysteries; time travel historical adventures for  Middle Grade/YA; and I’ve also written a couple of historical non-fiction books.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I devoured everything I could get my hands on. My grandfather helped me read the comic strips on the children’s page of his Sunday newspaper before I went to  school. My father was a great reader and he was delighted to take me to the Public  Library when he went to borrow books every week. I had to wait till I was 7 years old to get my own junior ticket, but I’d been using my older sister’s ticket for a while  before then. She wasn’t so interested in reading except for her weekly comics.  Between us, we got 8 comics a week, and I read them all. I got the girlie ones like the  Bunty, Judy, Diana and June & Schoolfriend and she got the Beano, Dandy, Beezer  and Topper. I acquired books from my much older cousins like Biggles; Boys Own  annuals and my very first Enid Blyton book came secondhand from a cousin.  Between the ages of around 6 and 10, I read almost every book Enid Blyton wrote (a  slight exaggeration since she wrote some 150 books).  Waiting for a ‘reserved’ book  to be lent to me was sometimes agonising, if it was a popular one. By the age of 12, I  was reading a lot of the classics. Reading was a passion but the time for it was squeezed into a very busy evening and weekend schedule since I was a Brownie, then a Girl Guide; I was in a choir and played a lot of sports as well.

MonogamyTwistNancyJardine x360

Q3. I remember quite a few of those books and comics myself, and I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton and also Malcolm Savile.  Now, I know you’re a very busy woman, what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve too many WIPS on the go and soon need to make a major decision about which to  focus on. I’ve  started Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic  adventures set in Celtic/Roman  Britain in late first century AD.  Every now and then,  I’ve been adding a little to a family saga set in  Scotland which starts in 1850. I’ve also  partially plotted out Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel  Series for Middle Grade/YA  readers —this historical time travel is set in Victorian Glasgow,  Scotland. 

Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

By the end of April I’ll have self-published The Taexali Game, Book 1 of my  Rubidium Time Travel Series for a younger audience, though anyone who loves a good  adventure will love it, too! Crooked Cat Publishing will also be publishing Take Me  Now, a contemporary romantic mystery, probably before the summer, though I’ve no  date yet for that.

Q5. What are your favourite authors?

I have so many authors whom I admire immensely and truly don’t have any favourites. I read across many genres so I’ve authors I like for many different reasons. Dickens and Tolkein are so different from Jane Austen but I like them equally as well as Phillip Pullman, or Rick Riordan, or Lewis Carroll.  I’m mostly drawn to historical fiction but even there I find that a new author might seem like my new best favourite but they are likely to be supplanted by another when I read the work of a new author.

Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

My daytime is swallowed up with grandchild-minding duties, gardening and household chores—with a 1 year old and 3 year old they are constant! That means I only write or read on days when the kids are with their other ‘granny’, or their mum when she’s not at work. I tend to write and read from around 9pm to midnight—though that’s also when I try to catch up with the news of the day. Before the grandkids appeared, I was managing to do a lot of ancestry research, which I find fascinating, but that’s not been easy to keep up with recently. I get easily sidetracked when doing research but love finding some really useful information. Facebook can be a lovely diversion: it’s lovely to keep up with readers and friends on FB.

Final Nancy Jardine x 488

Q7. What is your writing process?

I’m a natural ‘pantser’ who has gradually learned the value of pre-planning in my novel writing – so I’m now a bit of ‘pantser’ with a good dollop of ‘plotter’. I’ve now 7 published novels, some of which have been planned more than others. Books 2 & 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures took a lot of plotting out, after intensive research. The timelines for the historical events that I used in those stories took a bit of tweaking since historical records (written by Greek or Roman historians) don’t necessarily match up time-wise with more recent archaeological interpretations. I had to do a bit of re-jigging before I sent Books 2 & 3 to my publisher. Book 1 of the series was much more ‘pantser’ driven. Topaz Eyes, a contemporary mystery thriller, took a lot of plotting and planning. The family tree I created for my cast of characters needed a lot of checking to get the dates and relationships correct, but it was such great fun to do. In Topaz Eyes, my research was mainly about Mughal emerald jewellery collections—something I knew little about. Lots of charting of who found what and where happened before and during the writing process, to ensure the ‘treasure hunt’ aspects of the story all fell into place properly.

I loved Topaz Eyes – it was so fast-paced and I loved the European setting, not to mention the passion! Nancy, thank you so much for coming along and talking to me today. Can’t wait to read your new book.

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She currently shares a home with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, 3 year old granddaughter and 1 year old grandson. It’ll continue to be a busy household till late summer of 2015 when the new build home will be completed for the young ‘uns on what was Nancy’s former back garden. The loss of that part of the garden won’t be missed since there should now be more writing time available this spring and summer! Childminding is intermittent over the day and any writing time is precious.

All matters historical are a passion; Ancestry research a lovely time-suck. Nancy regularly blogs and loves to have guests visit her blog. Facebooking is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds! Any time left in a day is for leisure reading and the occasional historical series on TV.

Twenty years later…

file0001336424447

Getting round to things. Those days (weeks, months, years) when you don’t get done those things you really want or need to do. I’m not talking about ordinary, everyday, common-or-garden procrastination; this goes way beyond that. I’m talking about those things that haunt your mind – you know you need to get to them – but somehow you just don’t.

Have you got boxes in your attic/dungeon/guest bedroom that have been there since you moved in? Less than a year doesn’t count, btw. I’m talking about the ones you never forget – their very presence lurks just beyond the fringes of your perception. Their soft siren-calls come to you in the dead of night…”Don’t you – forget about me…” (thanks to Billy Idol for that one.)

I’ve got stories that have been waiting for revision since the mid-1990s. In fact I probably have some from the 1980s, or even earlier but I’m too scared to look. The knowledge that, unless I act now, in a couple of years those dusty old scripts will be able to club together and buy me a silver anniversary card is enough of a prod to make me actually prise open the drawers and start pulling out all those yellowed pages. And start reading.

What was I afraid of? I’ve no idea. All I can say is, I’m reasonably happy with what I read. Not full-blown “Wow, I’m Brilliant!” happy but a quietly confident “I don’t suck as much as I thought and I can absolutely do something with this” happy.

As I said a few months ago, for me 2015 is the year of writing dangerously. Some of the dust-covers have to come off for that. And as I pull off the dust-covers, underneath I behold – new ideas, fresh thoughts – twenty years old it’s true, but still so, so me.

And the things that made me stumble all those years ago – plot holes, problems with language and expression – now, solutions quickly present themselves, the difficulties erased by time, a fresh eye, and experience. Suddenly, as the kaleidoscope of my mind turns on these ideas, things begin to slot into place and a picture is formed. Which shows me, sometimes it is better to wait.