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My latest blog posts

The editing process

Writing a novel is the fun bit – you let your imagination roam, you live in a half-daydream state rich with colour and imagery. Your days are spent doing what you love best in the world – playing with words, expressing your inner self, conjuring up a world that makes

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Alternative plot directions

Do you remember those ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ books for children that were in vogue in the 1970s and ’80s? The idea was that the reader, rather than the author, had some measure of say over the direction of the plot. Such fun for a child; though tricky to write, I imagine!  

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Burning Embers-inspired fruit salad

It’s the start of January, and for many of us that means an end to the indulgences of the Christmas season and renewed resolutions to eat healthily – good, fresh foods, sensible portion sizes and the five-a-day of fruit and veg. What better recipe, then, than one for an African-style

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The artistic hero

What does a woman look for in a romantic hero – in the object of the protagonist’s affection in a romance novel? Of course, we like him to be handsome and mature and intelligent and brave and masculine. We’re likely attracted to sensitivity and a sense of humour and a

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From writing a single book in a lifetime to 4,000…

If writing your first novel is hard, writing your second is harder still! The Huffington Post recently ran an interesting article on ‘One-hit-wonder authors’ – famous authors who only ever wrote one book. The authors included in the article are: Anna Sewell – Black Beauty Boris Pasternak – Dr Zhivago Cyrill

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The perfect man?

What makes a perfect man? Does such a man exist? Perfection is surely subjective – so what’s your idea of a perfect man? These are the fundamental questions explored in a recent survey commissioned by Remington (the UK supplier of hair care and personal care appliances). Remington asked 2,000 women

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A Touch of Moonlight

Regular readers of this blog will recall that one of my favourite poets, and one whose verses inspired me while writing my novel Burning Embers, is the 19th-century poète Leconte De Lisle. As a reader, I enjoy rich imagery, words that create vivid pictures in my mind; and as a

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For Auld Lang Syne

Is there any more well-known but misunderstood refrain through the English-speaking word than that of ‘Auld Lang Syne’? It is, of course, the song that, traditionally, we sing at midnight on New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay  if you’re Scottish) to say farewell to the old year and celebrate the new –

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Burning Embers as a word cloud

I love words and I love art and creativity, so I think word clouds are a fabulously fun innovation. You copy a section of text into a program, and it generates word art based on a random selection of words (well, they say random, but I suspect the algorithm finds

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Christmas in Kenya

My novel Burning Embers is set in Kenya, and while the action does not span Christmas, I thought it would be interesting to consider what Christmas means to a Kenyan native. In the UK, Christmas is pretty much universal – even atheists may have trees and exchange gifts. In Kenya

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Favourite painter: David Roberts

An afternoon spent wandering aimlessly in an art gallery or exhibition, letting the images feed my imagination, is sheer bliss. As with music and dance and literature, I find many forms of art inspirational in my writing. A painter whose works I much admire is David Roberts, an artist who

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Music to write books by: revisited

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that music is instrumental (forgive the pun) in my writing. It stirs emotion, it inspires, it creates ambiance, it lets the imagination take flight. I have varied tastes when it comes to music, and I listen to an eclectic mix when writing in

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Romance in dance: ballet

What is it about ballet that speaks so to the romantic soul of the watcher? For me, I think it is many things – the catharticism of the music, the grace and fluidity of the physical form, the perfection of the movement, the strict structure within which beauty emerges, the

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How peril creates connection

In many love stories – on screen, in literature, in music – there are examples of characters coming together having been in a perilous situation, faced with death. A writer knows that introducing the risk of loss sharpens depends characters’ feelings towards each other, helps them realise those feelings; and,

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Five Christmas ice cream recipes

‘Ice cream? In December?’ I hear you cry. Surely that’s a summer-time treat? Well, not if you follow my easy and quick recipes and combine your favourite festive desserts with creamy ice cream. This is a great way to use up puddings that are going stale, or to serve up

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I wonder as I wander

Every writer has good days and bad days: times when the words just flow onto the page, as if by magic; and times when you seem to spend much of the day gazing out of the window, tidying your desk, looking up words in the dictionary – anything but write.

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‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows’: Anatole France

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the quote that runs along the bottom of this blog: ‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows.’ Anatole France’s quote echoes through my novel Burning Embers. ‘But who was Anatole France?’ you may well be wondering – he’s not a writer perhaps familiar to readers outside

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Favourite film: Gone with the Wind

I defy any romantic to watch this film and not love it! In my list of favourite films, it’s right near the top. I love the colours (of course, released in 1939, it was one of the first films shot in colour), the music, the characters, the vivid settings –

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Breaking Dawn

You’d have to be a hermit in a cave to have missed the excitement and passion generated among girls and women across the UK by the latest Twilight movie. Stephenie Meyer’s books have tapped into the deep river of romanticism that lies within the modern woman – though we’re strong

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The English rose

In my novel, Burning Embers, the male protagonist, Rafe, uses a number of terms of endearment when speaking to his lover Coral – my darling, my sweet, my love. But the most prevalent, and the most fitting in terms of her character, is ‘rosebud’. To the non-British reader, this may

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Kenya from the air

In Burning Embers, Rafe and Coral take to the skies in a hot air balloon from which they see have a commanding view over Kenya, laid out beneath them in all her glory. They see blue waters and verdant vegetation, and amid them the most wonderful array of animals: elephants,

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Challenging romance with love rivals

As Lysander wisely points out in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’ And what would a romance novel be without some obstacles along the path to test the lovers? Of course, one of the most common threats introduced by the author is

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A rose by any other name…

Choosing names for the male and female protagonists in a novel is, I always think, an important element of the writing process. The right name conveys the character’s personality, wishes and dreams; the wrong name could hinder character development. When I write a novel, deciding names is one of the

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A sweet aphrodisiac recipe

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the popular saying. Well, I think there’s a little more to attraction and love than that, but I do believe that certain foods and drinks act as aphrodisiacs for both men and women. (The word aphrodisiac, in case

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Writing: creator versus editor

I think all writers have two parts within: an editor and a creator. Often, the two work in synergy to produce writing you’re happy with. Sometimes, though, the two seem mutually incompatible. The creator, as I call it, is the part of me that’s inspired (by the muse, you could

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My latest blog posts

Amazon adding crowdsourcing into the mix

Another week, another Amazon development! This time, it’s the new Kindle Scout. Here’s how the process works: Authors (US only) submit their complete manuscript of at least 50,000 words (only the first 5,000 words are visible to readers). The manuscript must be unpublished in any format. They also supply a

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The immortality of writers

In the British Museum, London, there resides a very, very old papyrus scroll on which is written a work of wisdom from Ancient Egypt. Its argument was exceeding radical for the time (around the 12th century AD): writing is a surer path to immortality than fine tombs. The Immortality of

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Legends of Halloween, and a soul cake recipe

Happy Halloween! What are you doing today to mark All Hallows’ Eve? Are you dressing up in a goulish costume? Carving a pumpkin? Taking children to trick or treat? I wonder – how much do you know about why we do these things? Here’s some background on Halloween customs and

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Social media: Friend or foe to book-reading?

On very few facts do academics agree, but here is one: reading books is good for you. Countless studies have shown the many benefits of reading, from improving communication skills, organisational ability and concentration, to relieving stress and opening up the imagination. And how many studies have found a downside

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Farewell to the fero da prora of the Venetian gondola?

My novel The Echoes of Love opens in Venice, and so naturally descriptions of gondolas such as this one feature from time in time when I’m setting a scene: A couple of gondolas, their great steel blades looming dangerously out of the soft velvety mist, glided by swiftly over the gently

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Damage Done by MJ Schiller

From the blurb: When an unhappy youth leaves him damaged, will Teddy Mckee be able to find love? “Teddy Passmore McKee was born in Cork, Ireland, with a limp and a chip on his shoulder that threw his balance off all the more.” When he falls in love with the

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Putting a price on ebooks

Since the dawn of the digital books, a battle has raged on pricing, between those who price high and those who price low: High: The publishers lead this camp, because of course they want maximum profit on a book sale. Never mind that the publication hasn’t included the costs of

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The Murano love knot

Venice is known for many things in the cultural world: architecture, music, literature, the classic Commedia dell’arte. But for me, the most striking and beautiful of all the city’s gifts to culture is Murano glass, made exclusively on the islands of that name since the 13th century and wildly popular

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I could have danced all night…

There’s romance, and then there’s romance that incorporates dance and makes you feel like Baby in Dirty Dancing. There’s a good reason why most good romance films incorporate a dance between the lovers at some point – there is no clearer, more evocative way to convey passion and vulnerability than

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A brief history of Italian opera

When you think of Italy, you think of opera – the two are inextricably bound. Opera is so passionate, so dramatic, so epic; no wonder I chose to set my passionate, dramatic, epic novel The Echoes of Love in Italy! In another life, had I the musical genius, I would

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The Italian Girl by Lucinda Riley

From the blurb: Nothing sings as sweetly as love, or burns quite like betrayal Rosanna Menici is just a girl when she meets Roberto Rossini, the man who will change her life. In the years to come, their destinies are bound together by their extraordinary talents as opera singers and

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Venice: The ultimate wedding destination

How many women, since he first found fame on ER, have fantasised about marrying George Clooney? Well, it was British-Lebanese human rights lawyer AmalAlamuddin who finally had the honour last week. And the location for the most high-profile wedding since William and Kate? Venice. The wedding festivities, which spanned a weekend,

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Writing fast, reading fast

George R.R. Martin is without doubt an exceptional writer. He has just one flaw, according to fans: he doesn’t write quickly enough to keep up with their demands! That’s not to say that George is a plodding writer by any means. But the bestselling and world-renowned series he is currently

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Amazon versus publishing: print on demand

I could fill a blog post a day on how Amazon is changing the face of publishing – the repercussions of its actions are monumental and wide-reaching. Takethe seemingly simple decision by Amazon to supply copies of out-of-print books itself using its print-on-demand service. Then, theoretically, when the publisher’s print

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My latest blog posts

Guaranteed sunshine in every novel…

I have returned from France to my home in Ireland, and the views of rich-green lawns and spun-gold leaves and skeletal branches reaching up to dreamy clouds are beautiful. And yet, I must confess, I miss the sunshine. ‘Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the

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An unforgettable origins story: Aphrodite, goddess of love

My upcoming novel, set on a Greek island and rich in ancient mythology, is called Aphrodite’s Tears. No doubt you know that Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure (like her Roman counterpart, Venus). But do you know how, so legend tells, Aphrodite came to be? Perhaps

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Phantom islands and lost cities: fact or fiction?

Recently, I was reflecting on a trip I took to the Greek island of Santorini, whose culture, history and mythology helped to inspire my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, which will be published in January. Santorini is a volcanic island, and thousands of years ago it was the site of the Minoan eruption,

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Cover reveal for my brand-new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears!

I’m delighted to be able to introduce to you today my new novel, which will be published in January. Aphrodite’s Tears is a passionate and dramatic romance inspired by Greek mythology and set in one of my favourite corners of the globe, the Greek Islands. Here’s what you can expect

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A writer’s retreat: at home in France

Autumn has come, and the lawns surrounding my house in Ireland are carpeted with leaves in glorious colours. The view from my writing desk over the countryside is beautiful, and different, which brings a new energy to my writing. Still, a part of me misses the Mediterranean, azure beneath a cloudless

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