|Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay|
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|Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay|
Do you belong to a book club? I've been a member of several over the years, and I have a very big soft spot for them.
Twenty five years ago I joined a book club in the village I was living in at the time. The members were made up entirely of mums from the local primary school and I'm not sure we could really call ourselves a book club. Certainly we did all read a book each month, but to be honest that was the extent of anything bookish that used to happen. We would meet at someone's house and enjoy a lovely meal, then we'd spend a maximum of ten minutes (no, I'm being generous, it was closer to five minutes) discussing the book, followed by several hours gossiping about the local schools, a decision about new curtains, how many bottles of wine was acceptable on a school night - you get the picture!
These days book clubs have evolved due to the wonders of the internet. We can join in with online book clubs and discuss our opinion of a book with people from all over the world, connecting through our love of reading. And there is also the concept of a 'readalong' where we can read a favourite book by a specific author at the same time as fellow fans, pausing every few chapters to discuss what we've just read. Similar to a book club, but in much smaller chunks and for a lot of people with a hectic modern lifestyle this is more manageable.
I am also once again in a physical meet-once-a-month book club. And shock horror, we spend the whole meeting discussing the book! Well, sometimes we may stray into a moan about the state of the pavements while super-fast broadband is installed in the village, but we all congregate from different walks of life with a wide age range, so it's nothing like the book club of decades ago. The best part of this book club - indeed all book clubs and readalongs - is hearing such different views about something we have all read. Often these differ from my own thoughts; our different backgrounds and life stories change the way a book speaks to us.
One of the most wonderful things about this book club is that we have a special library department to organise our chosen books, so we're all able to have a copy of the same book at the same time without having to purchase each one. I need no encouragement to buy books, but even I can see the wisdom of borrowing a book that I may turn out to not enjoy. And of course, every time a book is borrowed from the library the author gets a small payment - but that is a subject for another blog!
And in case you're interested, this month's bookclub book is The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury. It's part travelogue, part memoir and is very different (in a good way!) from anything I've read before.
Exhausted but happy, I returned from the annual Romantic Novel of the Year Awards (RONAs) last Monday night, 6th March. Held by the Romantic Novelists' Association, it is always a spectacular evening to be part of and, on this occasion, I was a finalist in the Romantic Historical Novel category, with my dual timeline THE LEGACY OF HALESHAM HALL. Not a winner this time (huge congratulations to Natasha Lester), I still had an enormous smile on my face and joy in my heart. That's what comes of spending an evening with your tribe - and romance authors are definitely that!
I travelled down to London with fellow Norfolk and Suffolk Chapter members Heidi Swain, Clare Marchant and Kate Smith, and the hour and a half journey whizzed by. My fabulous agent (Hannah Schofield of the LBA agency) met me beforehand for a drink, and then I was whisked off for photographs with the other finalists, before we all took our seats and the evening began.
The night started with a moving tribute to Eileen Ramsay, former chairman of the RNA, who sadly passed away recently. She was a lovely lady and I remember talking to her at a RNA conference several years ago. She will be missed.
The first award of the evening was the Popular Romantic Fiction Award, which went to the delightful Heidi Swain, but huge congratulations must go to all the winners; Emily Bell, Emily Kerr, Jane Lovering, Sara Downing, Dani Atkins, Natasha Lester, Vicki Beeby, Louise Allen and Julie Haworth. The trophies were handed over with aplomb by Peter Davison, and there were some fantastic (and quite emotional) acceptance speeches.
|The winners, with the glorious |
Katie Fforde at the front.
(Photo credit; Camilo Queipo Photography)
To end the awards, and the section that had the whole room emotional was, of course, the Lifetime Achievement Award which went to the long-standing President of the RNA, the enchanting Katie Fforde. As the tributes poured in, the one word on everyone's lips was "kind". Such a kind lady - so generous and encouraging to aspiring writers and published authors alike. There was not a dry eye in the house.
|My favourite photo! Full of giggles, it looks as though|
Heidi and are about to waltz around the room.
(Photo credit; Camilo Queipo Photography)
As always, the RNA continues to play a huge role in my life, and not just my writing life. These people are my friends and my mentors, and I must yet again thank this incredible organisation for the knowledge, opportunities and support it continues to give me. Being shortlisted at the RONAs made me feel like a winner regardless, and attending these awards was truly a highlight of my year.
We’re spending a few months touring Spain in a motorhome, my husband and I. This is the third time we’ve done this, and it’s such a wonderful way to escape England’s grey, drizzly winter days. He’s retired and I can write anywhere, so we’re lucky to be able to do it.
Away from home, away from the TV – of course we end up reading a lot. We both have Kindles but we also read paperbacks. One thing we’ve discovered is that it’s amazingly easy to find English-language books to read while away in Spain, particularly while on the Costas.
There are a lot of northern Europeans who, like us, seek out the warmth of southern Spain for winter. British and Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Swiss and Dutch people in abundance. And all bring books with them and then need more to read later in their trips.
In the larger supermarkets, such as Carrefour’s hypermarkets, you can buy books in various languages. All the big name authors will be represented, but you’ll be paying a premium for these books – no discounts at all!
Alternatively some street markets will have stalls selling second hand books for about a euro each. I’ve spent plenty of time happily browsing what’s available there, and yes, I’ll admit, I always check if any of my own books have made it out to Spain! (Never spotted one yet.)
Another option is to use the various book-swap facilities around. Many campsites will have a few shelves of books in various languages, and I’ve also seen them in coffee shops or just in tiny huts in town squares. The deal is you leave one, and take another. Some volumes look as though they’ve been kicking around Spain for years, being passed on over and over again.
One campsite I know well closed down its bookshelves during the Covid crisis. Even so, long term campsite residents found ways to pass on books. When read, a book would be left by the communal washing up sinks. You could guarantee it’d be picked up by someone else within a day.
I’ve found that reading books from book-swaps has introduced me to new authors. There’s a limited choice, of course, which will force you out of your reading comfort zone and get you to try something new. Also, campsite friends of various nationalities have passed interesting books on to me – the quirky but compelling books of Carlos Ruiz Zafon for example, and The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting was given to me by a Norwegian friend who’d read it both in Norwegian and English. (And oh wow, what a fabulous book that was!)
So now when we come to Spain for the winter, we bring a selection of paperbacks that we know we’ll be happy to pass on when read. And we’ll keep our minds open as to what we’ll pick up in exchange for them!
|Tanya Paget of Ellipsis Coaching|
|Greenbrae Steading's fabulous workshop space|
Or in Yorkshire.
We retired to York 9 years ago for many non-writing reasons, but basically because we loved the city. However, it wasn't until I got the writing bug and started exploring the area that I realized how remarkable the County was! I mean, ANY county that produces the Bronte sisters, James Herriot, JB. Priestley, WH Auden, Alan Bennett, Val Wood, Kate Atkinson, Laurence Sterne, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Frances Brody, Ava Manelo, Jane Lovering, K LShandwick and Leah Fleming has to have something special going for it.
If you are in the mood for Historical fiction (or fact), a walk around the city can give you a host of plot ideas! As can the city pubs! Ghosts abound – as do real-life characters like Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin and Anne Lister.
Come at the right time of year, and you could find the Romantic Novelists Associationtion hosting an event there too. Recently they have been holding them in the Merchant Taylors Hall. In addition, you may find a writers' conference being held at York University.
Of course, all the attractions bring a downside too. A local paper ran a piece recently entitled "Death by Hen-Party". York being a central transport hub, Friday about 3 pm., the arriving trains start to decant groups of jeunesse dorée all determined to have a good time. To be fair, they are mostly harmless, and there is usually room for everyone.
York's other claim to fame is, of course, chocolate! Terry's and Rountree's were the big players in the chocolate markets of the Victorian era.
Like many chocolate makers of the era, they were Quakers and had a very paternalistic attitude to their workforce. However, they are STILL significant players in the property market. Rowntrees even built a theatre for their workers, and the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is in vibrant and popular use today.
When writer's block strikes, take a stroll, think back and imagine these very stones being trodden by King Richard III. You can literally walk in their footsteps. Towton, Stamford Bridge, Marston Moor and Fulford, some of the most infamous and bloody battles fought in England, have been fought here!
Winter is definatly approaching. It is noticably cold at night, and the nights aare drawing in. Hibernating sounds like a good idea (if only!) Take care over the winter, and curl up with several good books. Hopefully, by the time spring comes around they will be joined by one or more of your OWN books!
As I write this, I'm enjoying the final warm days of summer, but I've noticed that the nights are already drawing in and it's dark by nine o'clock.
Although I love the warm summer months (and we've been more than blessed this year!) there is something enticing about autumn. The first whisper of the cold weather to come, closing curtains as the evening falls and curling up with a good book. There are some advantages to living in a country with so many months of long, dark hours when we can be holed up in our homes making our way through a teetering 'to be read' pile.
And I find that what I read changes with the seasons. During the summer I like to read novels that reflect my life at that time, so holidays, sunshine, village fetes and days out. I absolutely love anything involving a coastal location and a big multi-generational family staying in a vast holiday home. I can feel the tension seeping out from between the pages before I've even opened it! I want to be transported somewhere warm with cocktails and sun-loungers and definitely no work - the summer of my dreams, but never my reality!
So, as we move into autumn and the children are going back to school (collective sigh of relief from parents across the country, including myself) I'm looking at my bookcase and putting away the summer novels to start reading something more suitable for the new season.
Whilst I do absolutely love them, I try and save the Christmas books for reading in December (I must stop myself from diving in too early!), so for my autumn reading I turn to darker, slightly mystical books. The sort of slightly spooky, gothic books usually with a historical element or dual timeline that needs to be read in front of a roaring log fire. Just as sitting in the sun adds to the mood when I'm reading a holiday novel, sitting in the dark with the lamp lit, is perfect for reading something atmospheric.
I've pulled out some of the books that are at the top of my 'tbr' pile and I am ready to dive into; I've just finished reading a review copy of Jenni Keer's 'The Legacy of Halesham Hall' so I don't have a copy of that (yet!) but it was brilliant, everything I love in a book for the turn of the seasons - twists and turns, gothic and deliciously dark!
Roll on the autumn nights, my books and I are ready to embrace them!