Saturday, 18 January 2020

Never Will We Ever...Write...What?


This week’s blog is a joint effort and we’re tackling the thorny question of genres we wouldn’t write in…

Jennie Bohnet says: 

Oh dear, there are so many genres that I can’t see myself ever writing in! At the moment I write in the genre usually labelled ‘woman’s fiction’ or ‘chick-lit’. Incidentally I think both those labels are a tad insulting to women in general but that’s the way the market is. 

My stories are about relationships but for me that rarely includes sex scenes. I’m very definitely keep ‘the bedroom door closed’ sort of writer! I’ve tried once or twice but sitting at the keyboard typing the scene I embarrass myself. So erotica heads the list, closely followed by horror, dystopian, fantasy and YA (another slightly patronising marketing term). These are all genres I never read so wouldn’t know how to start writing in them. 

Are there any genres left that maybe I would consider? Mmm, I have to admit I do fancy writing a novel set in the decade before the second world war when the Jazz Age was at its height in the south of France. I admit too I’ve done lots research already. But the early twentieth century is now regarded as an historical era and that is a genre I’ve never thought I’d write in so perhaps . . . 

Terry Lynn Thomas says:

Choosing a genre is a pivotal moment for any writer. Think about it. Once we choose a genre, (A murder? A romance? A ghost story? Police procedural?) we’ve committed to spending 300 pages in this particular world and scenario. Operating under the credo of write what you love, I am a devout crime and mystery writer. And while I read across variety of genres, there are a handful that I don’t see myself writing anytime soon. 

Who doesn’t love a good romance, especially when the damaged alpha male heals his wounds, both psychological and physical, and throws himself on the sword for the love of his woman? (This trope works well reversed, too, with a damaged alpha female.) Love – the lack of it, the desire for it, and the unattainability of it – is a perfect backdrop for conflict. There are so many writers who amaze me with the way they weave rich story tapestries around love. Oh, how I wish I could do the same. Who doesn’t love a well-crafted romance, a fresh, upbeat happily ever after, especially if it’s laced with historical intrigue? There are times when I read straight romance and am amazed at the deft way in which the author deals with the emotion. This skill does not, however, extend to me. On the occasions where I’ve tried to write about love, someone always winds up dead. Mysteries are my jam. Happy 2020, all. 

Victoria Cornwall says: 

I find documentaries about real life crime/murder, and how it is ultimately solved by the police force and forensic team, fascinating. I would love to be able to write a great contemporary crime novel and how it was solved using ground breaking forensics and research, and, of course, have lots of twists and turns along the way. Although I “enjoy” learning about these real life crime cases, I also know how much I don’t know about the subject i.e. protocols, advancement in techniques etc. 

With this in mind, I would never attempt to write a contemporary crime novel. I would want the story to be accurate, but without inside knowledge or experience of working in these places myself, I am concerned it would end up being a superficial homage to the real thing. I call these types of films/books “Scooby Doo” crime stories, where the method of solving the crime is inaccurate, out of date and breaks protocols which would, in reality, damage the court case which would follow. Perhaps an historical murder mystery would be the answer, where intuition and eye witnesses played a larger role and when procedural protocols were ill-defined.

Rae Cowie says: 

To write in any given genre, I believe an author must read widely and be familiar with that market’s offering, which is why I will never attempt to write procedural crime fiction. My understanding is that the crime fiction market, as well as being hugely popular, is one where readers are particularly knowledgeable and demanding in terms of facts. 

Although I enjoy reading psychological suspense and domestic noir, I don’t read nearly enough procedural or true crime fiction to give these genres a go. Instead, I’ll continue to explore my dark side by penning short stories that include suspense, sometimes even death, but without the need for police procedural knowledge. I’ll leave that to the experts!

Linda Mitchelmore says:

I could never write crime. Never. I am a seat-of-the-pants writer so to know the end (whodunnit) before I'd written the first chapter wouldn't be for me. In real life, I've also seen the effects crime has on people .... even a thing like a simple break-in or a bag snatch, can really upset the status quo. There have also been much more serious and life-changing crimes against family members, so .... crime is out.

And, er um, erotica. I'm not a prude but .... I wouldn't choose to write it, I am of the missionary persuasion so wouldn't know where to start with sex games. Write what you know is good advice and I know nothing!

And then there's science fiction. I know no one can criticise the content of a sci fi novel because well, no one knows if those other worlds exist, but when sci fi characters start talking about obscure pieces of equipment with strange names I can't pronounce I'm lost.
I've written historical novels and I've written contemporary women's fiction so I'll probably stick to those at this stage in my life .... but never say never!
😉

KathMcGurl says:

What genres do I not write in? Well I think it would be easier to say the only genre I do write in - which is dual timeline. But I guess within my dual timeline novels there is historical, crime, mystery, romance... so in a way I write in all of those, just all within the same book!

I would never try a police procedural, or a modern day thriller, although I do occasionally read these genres. I feel they'd be too hard to get right. I would also never write horror, and don't read it either. And my chances of being able to write a credible Young Adult novel are slim - I'm just not 'down with the kids' enough to be able to pull this off.

I do admire authors who write in several genres, sometimes with many pen names. Being able to switch from one to another is quite a feat. I chose to write dual timeline as they were my favourite books to read, so for the moment at least I am sticking to it.

Jo Allen says: 

As someone who’s switched genre and may yet switch again, I would be giving a hostage to fortune if I started to list the genres I’ll never write in. Once upon a time, I recall, I said I would never, could never, write crime…and here I am. 

I think there are lines in the sand, though, and those are drawn at genres that don’t interest me. While horror and sci-fi are hugely popular and require enormous talent to do properly, they don’t really interest me. I dip into them but I’m definitely not a huge fan and really don’t think I could commit the time and effort required to do them justice. The same goes for erotica: I’m much more about the motional side than the physical. 

That said, I recently found myself saying the same about fantasy (I mean, I have nothing but admiration for those who can be bothered to build and entire new world). Then i went through some old files and discovered the earliest known piece of my fiction writing, which is a piece of fan fiction written in the style of Tolkien — and that’s about as fantastic as it gets. 


Monday, 13 January 2020

Our first guest author of the decade, Kate Furnivall, talks all things research.

When I found out I was to host the first guest author of the decade there was no contest. Happily, fellow Brixham Writers member, and acclaimed Times best-seller author Kate Furnivall, agreed to take part. I have been privileged and thrilled to attend every one of Kate's local book signings, and have also heard snippets of every work-in-progress read out at our weekly meetings. How lucky am I?? So ... here she is:-

 Let's talk research by Kate Furnivall

It sounds dull, doesn't it? Dull, drab and dusty. Trawling through a never-ending pile of books and documents, trekking up to London to scour the hallowed shelves of the British Library. Jotting fiercely into notebooks. Not exactly a thrill a minute, right? Wrong. Believe me, research is the most fun-filled part of novel-writing. Because once I have been through all the books and the photos of my chosen setting for my new story, I toss my mozzie-cream into my wheelie case and off I go to explore. It might be Italy, France, Russie, the Bahamas or the captivating ancient secrets of Egypt, all of which have provided settings for my books. It's time to get my hands dirty. To smell the earth, taste the local delicacies and lose myself in mysterious alleyways that lead ... well, who knows where? I don't plan. I go with the flow.


   It usually starts well. When I land at the airport I proffer my passport with a polite smile and try not to look like a drug-donkey. I check into a comfortable hotel, no problem. Except for the time I dived into a creaky old lift - the cage sort with a grille for a door that snaps at your fingers - in an equally creaky Montmartre hotel in Paris and the electricity shorted out. I was stuck. In the dark. For an hour. Merde!

   But wait. It gets weirder. There was the time I stopped off at a lavatory on the side of a Russian motorway - one of the hole-in-the-ground variety perched over a smelly stream in a forest. Yes they DO still exist over there. As I emerged I found myself face to face with a skinny pale-eyed wolf. We both froze. Stared. Showed our teeth. I don't know which of us was more terrified. An old black crow dropped down from a branch, flapping its wings. The wolf fled one way. I fled the other, and you can bet that at the next hole-in-the-ground I kept my legs crossed.


   These things have a habit of happening to me, as if I slip down strange wormholes. On another occasion for research purposes I went up in a flimsy pre-war open-cockpit Tiger Moth biplane to immerse myself in the authentic feel of the experience for The Betrayal in which my main character was a flyer. At two thousand feet in the air the pilot's voice trickled through the intercom. 'Would you like to fly the plane?' he asked. 'Oh yes, please,' I heard my own voice reply. Aghast, my stomach did a handstand as I took the controls. But dear Reader, I lived to tell the tale.


   It was my research trip to Egypt for Shadows on the Nile that turned out to be the cherry on the adventure cake. I was met at Cairo airport by an amiable long-faced man who shook hands with so many people over the next few days while guiding me around the pyramids and the delights of Cairo that you - like me - would probably be thinking how friendly Egyptians are. Until I discovered he was a drug dealer passing his wares and the police came knocking on my hotel door.


   On the same trip the Tahrir Square riots erupted around my ears right next to the hotel and the night sky burst into flames. I watched with open-mouthed horror, convinced my research had finally done for me. Yet only a week later I was aloft in a hot-air balloon floating majestically through an oyster-pink dawn over the somnolent desert at Luxor. A long-held dream come true for me. But suddenly a man's voice shouted from within the wicker basket. 'Crouch! Grab the rope! Don't let go!' I crouched. I grabbed. The balloon was descending much too fast. We hit the ground with an almighty crash and, with the basket tipped on to its side, we were dragged along at speed through a field of bright green sugarcane. I clung ferociously to my grubby piece of rope to stop myself falling and didn't let go.

   So yes, I am still alive and I am planning my next research trip. Another adventure? Bring it on. Where's my wheelie case?

For those yet to read Kate's fantastic historical novels you might like to know you can get a taster right now as GUARDIAN OF LIES is only 99p on Kindle. Enjoy!

Friday, 3 January 2020

Walking and Writing


I've just spent two full weeks at home with my husband and sons over Christmas. In that time we've been on loads of lovely walks - along the cliffs and beach near our home in Bournemouth, over Hengistbury Head - the peninsular between the Bournemouth beach and Christchurch harbour, in the New Forest, and through the suburbs and streets into the town centre.

Sons at Hengistbury Head


Some days the weather was glorious - crisp cold days when the sun glints off the sea. Others were grey and overcast but still with a subdued beauty of their own.

My family are all keen on walking. When with others you can chat or fall silent, enjoying the surroundings. When alone you can let your mind wander. I often find myself writing a chapter of my work-in-progress, or a blog post, or planning a new novel as I walk.

I've used walking as a therapy in the past. I remember returning home feeling stressed after settling my mum back into her home after she'd had a prolonged spell in hospital. I was on call for work and had an outstanding call I needed to deal with - I'd thought I should just log onto my computer straight away and sort out the problem. But my husband said no, you need a bit of time for yourself first, and he insisted I go out for a walk with him, along the cliffs and back along the beach. By the time I'd done this I felt so much better, able to check in with work with a clear head, and glory of glories, found that someone else had solved the problem.

Once a year we head up to the Lake District with friends for a week's more serious walking in the fells. There's nothing better than the feeling of stretching muscles as you climb, each step taking you a little higher and further than the last; the sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit cairn; the glorious views from the top. Sadly with my aging knees the descent is not so pleasurable, but so far walking poles plus knee supports plus ibuprofen get me down safely.

With my husband in the Lake District


The Lake District has provided me with inspiration for my novels - especially The Drowned Village which is based on a reservoir remarkably like Haweswater, and its submerged abandoned village.

So, in the spirit of 'new year, new you,' why not try walking more? Walk to the shops for that extra pint of milk instead of hopping in the car. Walk to your friends' houses. Walk to the restaurant for your night out. Or just walk for the sake of it, to give yourself a half hour or so away from work/writing/chores. You'll return feeling exercised and refreshed and altogether more able to face the world.

Maybe I'm preaching to the converted here - maybe you're all walkers anyway. But if you're not, give it a go. It's a form of exercise that can be done anywhere, costs nothing, requires no training to get in shape for, and which brings all sorts of health benefits, both mental and physical.

Happy New Year, and happy walking!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

TIME FOR THOSE TWO ‘R’s - REFLECTION AND RESOLUTION


Today is Saturday 28 December 2019, and it would have been my mum’s 101 birthday. Sadly she died eleven years ago just a fortnight short of her 90th birthday. Since then December and Christmas have always been tinged with a certain sadness, but life moves on.
As I write this blog post we are just 4 days away from not only welcoming a New Year but a whole new decade. I’ve just realised too, that this will be the third time I’ve welcomed a new decade here in France - the first one being the millennium. 
For me personally the last two decades have flown by bringing all sorts of changes into my life - some good, some not so good and some I could in all honesty have done without. I’m sure that everyone has similar thoughts and feelings about their own lives. 
My son is currently with the organisation Sea Shepherd and is captain of one of their boats in the Upper Gulf of California trying to save the vaquita porpoise and other endangered species from extinction. There are only about 15 of the vaquita porpoises left in this protected area. Needless to say the Mexican fishermen are not happy about Sea Shepherd pulling up their illegal nets and there are frequent skirmishes. As proud as I am of Nick, as his mum I worry a lot!

If you’d like to know more about the Sea Shepherd organisation here’s the link: https://seashepherd.org/milagro


Used to the long Christmas holiday in the UK it took me a few years to get used to the French way of celebrating Christmas and New Year. Shops close at mid-day on Christmas Eve when their main celebration takes place and on Christmas Day itself. Boxing Day is unknown here, it's a normal workday (unless of course it happens to fall on a Sunday). The days running up to New Year are normal workdays and after celebrating New Year’s Eve in a big way, January 1 is a holiday, after that it’s back to a normal routine. Oh, there is the Day of Kings on January 6 when they have a special cake and a paper crown is involved.
So this week I’ve had no excuse not to work and I’ve been doing the copy edits on one of my backlist, Rendez-vous in Cannes that Boldwood are re-issuing in April. But before then A Riviera Retreat is published 23 January. If you want to escape from the January weather you can pre-order it here: https://amzn.to/2Q3cGYg


Oh, I've just realised I called this blog post Reflection and Resolution and I haven't mentioned New Year Resolutions - and that's because I decided not to make any!

On behalf of the seven Novel Points of View authors, I liked to wish you all a very happy 2020 and if you are a writer reading this lots of writing success.


Saturday, 21 December 2019

BOOKISH CHARITY APPEALS TO CONSIDER THIS CHRISTMAS …


Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and, in the spirit of the season, I want to further awareness of four bookish charity appeals raising money to help others. I understand that not everyone will be in a position to donate, but hopefully you’ll find the generous work being done by the bookish community interesting. 



LAST CHRISTMAS

First up is Last Christmas, an anthology curated by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson with stories from the likes of Graham Norton, Stephen Fry and Meryl Streep, as well as contributors who have been homeless, political refugees and volunteers. It is described as a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.  Published to coincide with the release of the festive rom-com Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, 25p from the sale of each book is donated to two charities - Crisis and The Refugee Council. Find a link here … LastChristmas



COMFORT ZONES

The second anthology, ComfortZones, is one I came across whilst browsing the Jigsaw (women’s clothing) store. Written in aid of Women for Women International, who work with at-risk women in countries affected by conflict and war, it is a collection of essays and short stories by writers including Daisy Buchanan, Elizabeth Day and Pandora Sykes, who were invited to pen pieces outside their comfort zones. For example, there’s a meditation on motherhood from a food writer, a short story on quantum physics by a novelist … you get the idea. Books bought via Jigsaw stores or their website ensures the full £9.99 goes towards the work of Women for Women International. Find a link here … ComfortZones



THE TIMES CHRISTMAS APPEAL

The Times newspaper has chosen to support three charities in their annual appeal, one of which is The Reading Agency, an organisation that aims to tackle the challenges of social mobility, mental health and wellbeing, and loneliness through reading. Its Christmas Appeal aims to expand their reading friends programme which uses the power of a shared story to connect people in libraries, prisons, care homes, community centres and recovery cafés here in the UK. Find a link here … The Reading Agency Christmas Appeal



THE SCOTTISH BOOK TRUST

Some of the happiest memories I have of my boys are when they were small, all bathed and cosy, ready for a bedtime story. This year, money raised by the Scottish Book Trust’s Christmas Appeal will directly benefit teen mums and their babies. A £5 donation buys the gift of a first book (Julia Donaldson’s and Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and a Whale) for a young mum and her baby to share. The appeal remains open until the 6th January. Find a link here… Scottish BookTrust Appeal



Most of these charities are based in the United Kingdom and I would love if readers would share book/literature based charity campaigns in other countries too.

And finally, all at the Novel Points of View team wish you and yours a peaceful, joyful festive season.


Rae x

Saturday, 14 December 2019

IT'S BEGINNING TO FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS ... by Victoria Cornwall


The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. Streets, shops and homes are festooned in festive twinkling lights, ball balls and garlands, whilst gifts are being wrapped for family and friends.

A Daughter's Christmas Wish
Ebook & Audio

  This time last year my first Christmas novella, A Daughter's Christmas Wish, was published. It told the story of a WW1 soldier, Nicholas, returning to Cornwall with the intention of honouring a promise he made to his friend, a fellow soldier, who would not be coming home. But as Nicholas strives to give his friend's grieving fiancée, Rose, the best Christmas she could wish for, he begins to question whether his efforts are to honour his friend, or whether there is another reason …

  The story, which was published by Choc Lit, was well received by readers so my natural curiosity had me rummaging around Choc Lit's festive releases for this year to see what was on offer. I was not disappointed and there are a nice variety to pick from to get me in the mood for Christmas. I have left their book blurbs to do the talking and have provided a link to Kindle. However do remember they are on all the ebook platforms, such as Kobo, Nook, Google Play and iBooks, and some are also in audio and paperback! Happy reading!

Ebook & Audio
Happy Christmas Eve by Jackie Ladbury
Eve Halligan is back in her hometown for Christmas after a whirlwind few years touring with her band, the Molotovs. A lot has changed since she left, but two things have stayed the same. One: Eve is head-over-heels in love with Lucien Malikov, the Molotovs’ bad boy lead singer. Two: Lucien is completely indifferent to her.
Still, Eve dreams that this could be the Christmas where she convinces Lucien that they’re made for each other. But when childhood friend and local caterer Theo Wright comes back into her life bringing with him festive cupcake and sausage roll conundrums, Eve begins to question whether her Christmas dreams have been wasted on the wrong man …
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Daisy's Christmas Gift Shop by Hannah Pearl
Daisy Kirk is a sucker for a love story, which is why she opened up her gift shop – because there’s nothing that makes Daisy happier than when she’s helped a customer achieve their own ‘happily ever after’ by finding the perfect Christmas gift for their loved one. And she absolutely does not just sell ‘soppy presents and frilly pants’ as her brother’s infuriating best friend, Eli, is so fond of suggesting.
The sad fact is that whilst Daisy is helping others with their love lives, hers is non-existent. But when unusual circumstances take Daisy and Eli on a road trip from London to rural Wales, will she finally get the happily ever after to her own Christmas love story?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Christmas on the Isle of Skye by Kirsty Ferry
The Isle of Skye is a magical place, especially at Christmas, and there’s no place Zac Fallon would rather be. But whilst Zac has everything he needs on Skye, there’s still something missing – and that something is a somebody called Ivy McFarlane.
Ivy used to work with Zac but then spread her wings and moved to Glastonbury. He’s missed her ever since. Now it’s almost Christmas and Zac realises that the Ivy shaped hole in his life is too big to bear. So starts his festive mission to the mainland – but will he be back in time to spend Christmas in Skye? And, more importantly, will Ivy be with him?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Bluebell's Christmas Magic by Marie Laval
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic …
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to.
She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook & Audio
Christmas in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell
Wannabe author Jane Solomon is expecting an uneventful Christmas in her Cornish village of Little Penhaven.
But then super fit American gym owner Hal Muir comes to town, and suddenly the holiday season looks set to be far more interesting. Hal is keen on embracing every British tradition on offer, from mince pies to Christmas pub quizzes – and perhaps some festive romance too …
Click HERE to buy.
***

Paperback
Christmas at Black Cherry Retreat by Angela Britnell
When Fee Winter books a winter break at the remote Black Cherry Retreat in the small town of Pine Ridge, Tennessee, it's with the idea that the peace and quiet will help her recuperate from her hectic life as a photographer.
But what she didn't bank on was meeting Tom Chambers and his huge, interfering yet lovable family. With them, could Fee finally experience the warmth and support that's been missing from her own life - and maybe even find a place to call home in time for Christmas?
Click HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Izzy's Christmas Star by Berni Stevens
Student and Zumba instructor Izzy Grant leads a pretty normal life, but in the run-up to Christmas an unusual encounter with a friendly Santa paves the way for the most wonderful and star-studded Christmas she’s ever experienced.
Because at almost exactly the same time, Izzy also meets Seth Roberts – as in the Seth Roberts, bona fide rock star and lead singer of Scarlet Gryphon. As their connection grows, Izzy’s Christmas countdown becomes a glittering whirlwind of after-show parties and classy restaurants – and does she have her mystery Santa to thank?
Cick HERE to buy.
***

Ebook
Hanukka at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson
Cohen Ford is a man who could do with a little bit of sweetening up. It’s no surprise that when he walks into The Great Greenwich Ice Creamery on a typically gloomy London day before Christmas, he insists on a black coffee rather than his childhood favourite – strawberry ice cream.
But then he meets River de Luca, the woman behind the flavours. After their first encounter, Cohen begins visiting the ice creamery every Tuesday, gradually learning more about the intriguing River. Could her influence encourage cynical Cohen to become the man who embraces Christmas, Hanukkah and even strawberry ice cream?
Click HERE to buy.
***
  There are lots of festive reads to choose from so why not download a book and put those feet up for a well earned rest! I can't think of a better way to get me in the mood for the festivities ahead. It is certainly a lot less stressful and tiring than running around the shops on a cold winter's day hoping to find something suitable for great aunt Gladys. Enjoy and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!





Sunday, 8 December 2019

ALL PRESENT AND CORRECT .............................. LINDA MITCHELMORE

Well, it's that time of year when most of us are knee deep in wrapping paper and ribbons and glitter and sticky labels, and decorations, and exhausting ourselves blowing up balloons.
And it got me thinking. I've had more than a few short stories published that were inspired by presents. The good ones and the bad ones. And once, not even getting one at all. On a personal front, my husband and I (sounds regal but just a three bed-semi, not Buck House)stopped buying gifts for one another on birthdays and at Christmas a long time ago. Not my decision, I hasten to add but it took the sting out of not getting anything when I knew my husband wasn't going to be getting anything either. And, of course, there was the shivery memory of the microwave that was the gift he thought I'd been gagging for one year - the story I wrote around that sold in four countries .... more than enough to buy myself a deccent leather handbag. And a pair of shoes.
I was once handed a bunch of flowers by a young man outside the railway station as I emerged into the winter gloom, laden down with bags and cases. He just sort of thrust them between the strap of my shoulder bag and my arm as I had no hands free. 'Won't be wanting these now, will I?' he said. It was in the days pre-mobiles so I can only imagine he'd been standing there a long time with his flowers and had been stood up. Stuck for something to write about I dredged up that memory and wrote a story called STOLEN ROSES that will be out in next Christmases My Weekly Annual ... always nice to have a publication to which to look forward, isn't it?
I don't suppose I'm the only writer who has to put on a brave face when they get given yet another pen - as much as I love pens I struggled to put on a brave and enthusiastic just-what-I-wanted face when a bundle of bics turned up!
Now then, it's a bit of a dull time - writing-wise - I always find in the few weeks running up to Christmas. Many of us are full of enthusiasm afterwards with new leaves been turned over and all that but right now we need motivating - well, I do. I've got a few free days and an idea (from a true life situation) that's been rumbling around in the grey matter for some time. The son of a friend of mine - let's call him Henry - had been going out with a girl - let's call her Jessica - for some time and he knew it was time to finish it. But Christmas was coming. There were all sorts of dinners and drinks parties booked in to which they'd been invited as a couple. It would be churlish to finish with her in the run-up to all that, wouldn't it? So, Henry bought a decent but non-commital gift - a leather purse and a bottle of what he knew was her favourite perfume - and wrapped it up. But what did Jessica turn up with on Christmas Eve? Both families all in the know as well. Only a flight ticket to Paris and a booking for three nights in a top hotel. A sort of taster for the honeymoon Jessica was expecting of him. Poor Henry. The present from hell as far as he was concerned. But he went, gent that he is. And .... well, you can probably guess the rest ... Henry and Jessica got the pre-honeymoon baby as well (after Jessica muddled up taking 'the pill' wouldn't you know) in that great city of romance. As I said, it was a while ago, but I've always wanted to write Henry a different outcome to that one. Jessica too, of course ... HAPPY CHRISTMAS