Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Blissfully Romantic Location.

We have just come home from two weeks in Greece.  The unarguable beauty; the warmth; the scents of pine resin, thyme and sage; the continuous swooshing of the sea and the clanking of goats’ bells - and from our vantage point high above it, we even saw a huge turtle swimming up the bay - all combine in a seductive sense memory that I've filed away to be revisited whenever I need a boost.

Our villa is terracotta, halfway up the slope
















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By the time it came to leave it was a wrench, not just because we had enjoyed a lovely holiday,  but because we felt we were leaving friends.  Betty and Venettia, the caretakers of our villa, took us on a trip - it was at their own instigation. We prefer not to have a hire car and they were concerned we were missing out. They refused any contribution towards petrol, and collected us and drove us home, despite our insistence that we would get a taxi.

Venettia
Betty














Members of the older generation of the family
The brothers












Dimitris and Christophoros, seemed bafflingly interchangeable, popping up to 'wait' at one or another bar or taverna. We then discovered that many of the eateries are a family concern, and that they are only two of the four brothers and three sisters of the family.

Andreas and Anait run the delightful and invariably excellent Nefeli taverna, with the help of Aleko (or Oleg) at front of house, and many others - including Anait's mum - in the background.

Aleko
Anait with her fiancé and business partner, Andreas



The Nefeli












I have to mention Katerina and her daughter, Maria, who run the Minimarket, and their cat Nausicca. (Poor Nausicca was pregnant when we first met her, but by the end of our holiday she had given birth and then lost her first litter of kittens. It is thought they were predated.)
When I went to buy some olive oil made from the olives grown on their own farm, they insisted on giving it to me.

Last but not least, marathon man, Christos. He is the owner of the villa we stayed in and could not have been more charming, enthusiastic, helpful and eager to chat to us - despite his pidgin English, and our, even more pidgin, Greek. Amazingly fit, he had retired as a colonel only four years previously, from a 36 year career in the Greek army, in the paratroop regiment.

Christos and me - enjoying his famous frappé
I can understand why Romance writers choose places like the Greek islands to set their stories.  The location is idyllic, lending itself to languorous glances across a candle-lit dinner table; the balmy evening breeze and the lulling sound of the sea; fragrant evening strolls among the Oleander trees and the Gardenias, but.....

When I am asked if I am a romance writer, I usually disclaim the description, or at least attempt to qualify my kind of fiction. I am not a snob about it - I'm a member of the Romantic Novelists Association after all - but I need to manage the expectations of my potential readers. If someone picks up one of my books wanting to immerse themselves in an escapist world of hearts and flowers, yachts and fast cars, glamorous locations, then they will feel very let down. But, if the reader wants a more down-to-earth story about real people, in real-life situations, then my books might be just what they’re looking for. 

Life is not a fairy tale - most of us, at some time, have to deal with bereavement, marriage, childbirth, infidelity, separation, illness and ... love, in its many facets.  There is the love of parents for children, and vice versa.  There is the love between brothers and sisters. There is love between friends.  Even the love in a relationship, is not always - or only - romantic.  It grows, changes, deepens and sometimes, sadly, fades.  I see love as a part of life, probably THE most important part, but still only a section woven into the plait that makes up our lives. 

So, of course, I write about love, but I don’t just write about its heady and breathless joys. I write about love where it’s gone wrong or dies. I write about the bad consequences of love and sex, as well as its rewards. And I don't deny that locations such as the one I've just left, are very very romantic. I just don't write that kind of book. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

BLUEBELLS




A week or two ago I went for a solitary walk in the woods above our house.  I needed the exercise, but I was going with intent. I knew there would be bluebells. It is a favourite time of year for me, some years better than others. 2016 was a good year, made more enchanting by the fact that the wood anemones, wild garlic and violets were also out at the same time.















In LIFE CLASS, my character Stefan lives in a house on a wooded hillside. So how could I resist including a passing reference to one of my favourite flowers?

Stefan wants, above all things, to concentrate on his career as a sculptor. It is his intention to live as a solitary artist, without the messy demands of love - in any of its incarnations.   The ghosts from his past are his object lesson; love only comes with shame and guilt.

In this section, his mood is understandably depressed. His neighbour, an old lady he helps out with shopping and odd jobs, has died. But more than this, he is continuously troubled by Dominic, the damaged young man currently living with him. Dom has been living dangerously and has put his health at risk.  And now there is a woman, a member of the art class he teaches, who intrudes too often and too disturbingly into his thoughts ... and into his life. How did he find himself in this position? He wanted to keep his life clear of the clutter of the unnecessary emotions that come with caring about other people.

It was cool but bright. As Stefan walked from the house to the barn, he saw a violet haze, wreathed smoke-like beneath the trees. Bluebells plus sunshine should have raised his spirits but, since the death of his neighbour, he’d yet to fully appreciate a lifting of his sense of responsibility. Was it because that weight had been replaced by another burden that touched his emotions far more closely? As he pulled open the barn door he was relieved to see Dom drawing at the table.