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My latest blog posts

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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African beliefs: The afterlife

In my Burning Embers, Coral’s father, ‘The White Pirate’, has died leaving her the legacy of his plantation, Mpingo. Coral’s old yaha (nanny), Aluna, is a native African lady who subscribes to the legends and traditional beliefs of her home, Kenya. And we see in the book that she is

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The kindness of strangers

A stolen glance across a crowded train; a shy smile as you pass each other by on a windswept cliff path; a brush of hands as you reach for the same apple outside the grocer’s – you see a stranger, and you feel something. A connection forms as naturally as

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Burning Embers, the song

‘Egosurfing’, they call it – Googling yourself. It’s not something I had ever done before this week, but with my upcoming book I decided, one particularly gloomy afternoon, to browse the internet for mentions of myself and the book. And it was whilst looking at results for ‘Burning Embers’ that

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Favourite films: Legend of 1900 and August Rush

I love music, and I love films in which music plays an integral role.   Have you seen Legend of 1900? If not, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so (I understand it’s available in DVD format for a very reasonable price online). This is a life-affirming, heart-warming, touching tale told

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Le Jaguar

In earlier blog entries I have written of the poetry of Leconte De Lisle.  De Lisle writes with such passion of exotic locations and the beasts that stalk them, and as I wrote of the setting and the animals in Burning Embers, set in Kenya, I found myself often drawn

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Love at first sight?

I am, of course, a romantic at heart – what romance novelist isn’t? But in today’s fast-paced era of busy people hurtling around in their busy lives; of connecting to people via the internet and mobile phone more than face to face (even arranging dating online); of rising divorce rates

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A slice of summer

It’s a gloomy autumnal day here in Kent, so I’ve been cheering myself up by looking through pictures of this summer. Here’s a shot of our pool in Kent, where I do a lot of dreaming and writing.

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Kenyan recipe: Mango ice cream with pineapple rum sauce

Earlier this month I posted a recipe for delicious groundnut soup – a traditional dish eaten in Africa. But what meal is complete without a little something sweet to finish? In Burning Embers, the protagonist, Coral, savours the ripe, succulent mangos that are grown in the area surrounding her homestead

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My latest blog posts

Preserving the residences of literary greats

The blue plaque scheme in the UK is one of my favourite historical initiatives. It began in London, launched in 1867 by the Royal Society of Arts, as a means of connecting sites with people of historical interest. The first plaque was unveiled at 24 Holles Street, Cavendish Square, the birthplace

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‘Start with a bang’

Here’s a piece of advice commonly given to writers: Start with a bang and you won’t end with a whimper. It’s frequently attributed to the poet TS Eliot, but in fact he didn’t give this guidance; he attributed it to an ending, not a beginning, at the close of his

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His Island Bride by Maxine Sullivan

From the blurb: When JaceJardine is asked to return to his family’s island resort after years spent in the city, he knows Wedding Belles Resort must be struggling, but when he arrives he finds the business on the brink of financial ruin. The solution? A big wedding and happy marriage

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The dream of being a writer: What does it really mean?

The phrase ‘dream of being a writer’ is a common one that dates back a long way. Remember Josephine March in Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century Little Women series? She ‘dreamt of being a writer’. But what exactly does that mean? What is the dream exactly? Once upon a time –

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Reading: A social activity?

Reading is often assumed to be a quiet, sedentary, solitary pursuit. If you want it to be that – if you want some peace, a sit-down, a break from socialising with others – then reading can certainly be an activity for you and you alone. But in fact, reading has

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Genre-specific book stores

The idea that the conventional book store is in trouble needs no introduction. Digital publishing, book discounting by giants like Amazon, the shift from high-street shopping to online shopping: these, and other reasons, have seen many book stores close in the past few years. Those that soldier on are forced

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The espresso purist versus the latte artist

Coffee. In the 15th century it was first brewed in Yemen. In the 16th century the drink had spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and northern Africa. Then came Italy, and it that took coffee and made it the drink of today, perfecting the espresso on which most drinks

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The Love List by Eve Devon

From the blurb: Falling in love is just not on Nora King’s To Do List… Neither is accidentally super-gluing her shoe to her hand right before the biggest presentation of her life! With all the hard work she’d put into securing the family business after her father’s death, Nora has

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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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My latest blog posts

Psyche and Cupid: the ancient story with a happy-ever-after

Researching my latest novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, was an absolute pleasure, for it involved reading up on ancient mythology. I was especially interested, as the novel’s title conveys, in stories of the gods; but as my heroine Oriel points out in the book, so many of the stories of the ancient

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Havens for bookworms: Literary hotels

In Liverpool, you can stay in a hotel modelled on the Titanic; in London, in an imitation Hogwarts; in Montana, in a Hobbit house… Themed accommodation has been growing in popularity in recent years, and now not only can readers escape into the fictional worlds of their books, but they

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Made in their image: Taking lessons from the Greek gods

My new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, set on the Greek island of Helios, takes inspiration from the colourful, dramatic myths of the Ancient Greeks. The hero of the book, Damian, is Greek, and he is very knowledgeable about the culture of his homeland. But more than that, he is a born

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Firewalking: The ultimate test of strength and courage

Did you know that the practice of firewalking – walking barefoot over a bed of hot coals – dates back many thousands of years? Cultures all over the world have incorporated firewalking into rituals that relate to proving one’s valour and strength. My new book, Aphrodite’s Tears, is set on

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Travelling to find a place called home

In the 16th century, French poet Joachim du Bellay travelled to Italy. He was most keen to live in this country, the birthplace of the Renaissance and the great Roman Empire. Yet he found he did not fall in love with Italy (though he fell in love with an Italian lady,

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Philoxenia: The gift of Greek hospitality

In my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears, the heroine Oriel is hired to work on an archaeological site on the island of Helios. As she approaches the island by plane, this is her first impression: Standing out with breathtaking detail in the dazzling afternoon sunlight, like a primitive red-and-green sculpture arising

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Keep the Romance in romance

‘[T]he age of chivalry is on its way out.’ So opens a recent article published on the website of the Guardian newspaper. Of course, given that I am a romance novelist, this declaration piqued my interest. The article (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/11/lovable-or-rogue-britons-admit-confusion-about-romantic-gestures) summarises the results of a recent survey carried out by long-standing

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