My first novel is about to be published…!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this particular blog… as I can begin to tell you about my novel that’s being launched on 23rd September and here’s a sneaky peek at the cover!

Although I’ve published over 40 non–fiction books, this is my first foray into novel writing. It has always been a dream of mine to publish a work of fiction and I can hardly believe the dream is about to come true. 

Entitled ‘A Sticky End’, I have written the book jointly with my hen-pal Julia Wherrell, who lives near me down here in Devon. The novel is based in the fictional village of Swaddlecombe deep in the Devon countryside. Julia and I have had great fun inventing the characters and places that populate our book, although it would be untrue to say it has all been plain sailing…

The idea that writers sit gazing out of the window for inspiration and then knock out a few chapters by tea time is a very long way from the truth – well, it was for us anyway! Writing is actually very hard work and, while writing together has given us the much-needed momentum required to finish the project, (we both have previously unpublished and unfinished books) it also made it quite a complicated process – but in the end, it has worked for us. We also, of course, had to fit in writing alongside our ‘day’ jobs, so it’s been quite a busy time for both of us… and our long-suffering partners!

’A Sticky End’ is a light-hearted murder mystery revolving around a character, Victoria West, who has recently moved to Devon from London. I think there’s quite a bit of both Julia and myself in the novel and it reflects our love of the Devon countryside – and our combined sense of humour! The title is a direct reference to strange goings on at the jam company at the heart of the book.

After inheriting a cottage from her aunt, Victoria leaves her stressful London life behind and moves to the tranquil backwaters of rural Devon. Feeling fragile, but positive after a recent brush with cancer, she is looking forward to an independent, laid-back lifestyle doing all the things townies like her always do in the countryside–keeping chickens, growing veg and, well, chilling out!

But Victoria hadn’t reckoned with the locals of Swaddlecombe. After only a few days in her new home she’s investigating a suspicious death, is a victim of road rage and has a nasty incident with a sheep. And then of course, there’s tall handsome farmer, Albert Moreton…

Well, I hope that’s whetted your appetites! Julia and I have all sorts of plans for book two – and even a whole series of Swaddlecombe mysteries, but we realise that will all depend on how much you like the book and the characters. Fingers crossed that you do and I wonder if you will guess whodunnit?

‘A Sticky End’ will be available on Kindle, priced £3.99 (on Amazon.co.uk) and as a paperback direct from Joanna Sheen Ltd, priced at £6.99. Both products will be available from 23rd September 2013. We will even sign the paperbacks if you fancy a first edition! 

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Murder & mystery in deepest Devon…

The west country, with its dramatic coastline, brooding moors and secluded hideaways is a pretty perfect place for writers to escape to – well that’s what I keep telling myself whenever myAgatha Christie enthusiasm flags! Over the years, this corner of England has been home to some of our most popular authors of the 20th century. Two female literary giants – Daphne Du Maurier and Agatha Christie – both spent many happy years in this part of the world.

South Cornwall was the home of Daphne Du Maurier, writer of the haunting classics Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and Frenchman’s Creek, among many other excellent novels. She lived a reclusive life down on the wild south Cornish coast and nowadays there is an annual Daphne Du Maurier Literary Festival (now called the Fowey Festival or Words & music) which I keep promising myself I must go to! 

In Devon, we lay claim to Agatha Christie. The undisputed queen of crime was born on 15 September 1890 in Torquay, just a couple of miles away from where I live. Once her fame was established and money no object, there was nothing she loved more than escaping with her family to Greenway, their Devon holiday home.

The National Trust opened Greenway House to the public in 2009 and for the first time, visitors had the opportunity to view the many personal collections and mementoes of this much-loved mystery writer and her family. It’s well worth a visit.

Greenway is an imposing house, sitting high on the slopes of the valley running down to the beautiful riverGreenway House Dart, near Dartmouth – one of my favourite Devon towns. If you take the Dart River Boat trip from Totnes to Dartmouth – wonderful in itself – you get superb views of Greenway from the river and can appreciate what a lovely place it was for her to escape to. 

Outside you can explore the large and romantic woodland garden, with a restored vinery, wild edges and rare plantings, which drifts down the hillside towards the sparkling Dart estuary. Lovely!!

I keep saying to Richard, all we need is a nice mansion by the sea where I can sit and muse while sipping a gin sling and I’ll have no trouble writing all my murder mysteries!! Somehow, I don’t think he is taking me seriously…

 

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The power of three

Have you ever stopped and thought about the number three? No, neither have I much, but if we do stop to analyse, it is actually quite an interesting little beast.

While that old saying ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ has a negative slant, the fact that three can be a crowd is actually very useful when it comes to arranging flowers and planting in the garden. It’s also a very important number to remember when you’re writing…

In appearance, an uneven number of things, three, five, seven and so on, always gives a more random, ‘natural’ look. A farmer friend of mine planted all his daffodil bulbs two by two in a regimented march across his lawn and, oh dear, did it look odd! If he’d done little clumps of three it would have looked much better.

I always plant my perennials in clumps of at least three, and the same goes for bulbs. Flower arranging, which I am trained in and did a very great deal of earlier in my career, works a lot with threes and the triangular shape, and the science behind it and how our brain sees things is very interesting…

The ‘Rule of three’ is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes will be funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. And that sentence was itself an example of it!

Apparently, we are more likely to absorb information if it is written in groups of threes. From slogans – the Olympic’s “Faster, higher, stonger!” – to films, many things are structured in threes. Examples include the Three Musketeers, Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

When I’m busy writing – whether it’s an article, a book or this blog – (that’s another three!) the rule of three does come to me quite naturally after all these years. At the moment, as some of you will know, I am working on a novel and, when I am trying to create dramatic, impact I do sit and chew my pen – well actually my finger nails as I type everything – and put a lot of effort into producing the most concise, clever and crafty sentences that I can. A series of three creates a progression in which the tension is created, built up, and finally released.

Will I succeed? Or will time, tiredness and tedium get the better of me…? Only time will tell. I’ll keep you posted on the novel’s progress…!

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