Why I love…writing a new book

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

So, today’s ‘what I love’ is actually about something I’ve just started…again. There’s something about the very beginning of a new novel; when the details aren’t there, when you’re feeling your way, and things are just vague shapes in your mind.

For me, it starts with the end. I generally, although not always, know how and where the story is going to end. Being left-handed, I’m used to approaching things slightly backwards in comparison to the right handed way of the world, and I tend to know what the destination is for my characters, even if I’m not sure how they get there! That was certainly true for my debut novel, The Second Chance Tea Shop, when I knew how my characters got their happily ever after and what time of year it would be, even before i’d written a word of it! Likewise, with ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’, my fifth novel, there was a key climactic scene involving a military uniform, Shakespeare and a very excited audience that just had to be, if not the end, then pretty damned close to it. And now with this book I’ve just started, it’s a house that becomes something it should have been a long time ago, with the help of my protagonists. I’m saying no more than that!

But there are other things. Generally, I get a clear idea of my male protagonist first, and in this case that’s definitely true. The train of thought is leading me towards a close real life associate of the actor who eventually became the ‘face’ of my previous novel, in my mind, and at the moment, he seems to be sticking. I’m playing about with the idea of him as the hero, trying stuff out, filling in some gaps, joining the dots in my mind and seeing if I’ve got a decent picture. This involves writing random snippets of scenes that may or may not end up in the final novel (I’m getting more efficient at this, and most of them do, these days). I like to start with the emotional high points – the laughter, the tears, the declarations of love and intent, the arguments, the expressions of inner and outer conflict and motivation, until I can thread them together coherently, and that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve got the first thousand words or so, and it’s mainly dialogue.

And new dialogue is the best thing about starting a new novel. Conversation between characters allows me to flesh them out, to experiment with how they might respond to their circumstances. It allows me to have people shouting at each other with complete impunity, and experiment with how they might tell each other the really important stuff. Dialogue carries my novels, and I love writing it.

So there you have it. Although I might (and usually do) hit the wall about halfway through a draft, the beginning is always an exciting experience, and one that, thankfully, I love!

Why I love…the Shipping Forecast

I’m going to try to follow my daughter’s example with this blog, and post more regularly for the next few weeks. As a result, I thought I’d do some shortish posts where I write about things I love. Welcome to the first in the series!

Listing the weather conditions in 31 sea areas surrounding the British Isles, the Shipping Forecast is read out at 5.20 am, 12.01 pm, 5.54 pm and 00.48 am. The first and last broadcasts of the day also include report (1)

So…the Shipping Forecast. Put simply, it’s a list of the weather conditions in 31 sea areas surrounding the British Isles. The names, rolling mellifluously off the tongues of the weather forecasters four times a day on BBC Radio 4 are both hypnotic and, strangely compelling. When I first heard it, I likened it to having the effect on me that me crooning to my dog might have on him; it sounds wonderful, but I have no idea what it’s all about. And, to be honest, for me, that’s the appeal.

I listen to it at 5.20am, and it’s my absolute moment of Zen in the morning. I don’t get up until gone seven, but it’s waking up to the sound of all of these wonderful, romantic sounding names that sets me up for the day. In fact, when the forecast moved from 5.30 to 5.20, I reset my radio alarm clock so I could keep listening to it! It inhabits that semi-somnolent domain between sleep and waking for me, as I often drift off while listening, and its gentle tones influence my semi-lucid dreams.

What I’ve noticed now I’ve been listening to it for a while, though, is the differences between the forecasters. Some take their time at the beginning, rolling their mouths gloriously around the words, then getting steadily faster, more urgent as the time ticks down to the five-thirty news briefing. It’s like meteorological foreplay, starting slow and then racing, gasping to the finish before the clock runs out. Listening to it injects a fever of tension, a mounting sense of building climax until the last, inevitable release of the final reference. We all draw breath and the earth, along with the sea, moves.

Other forecasters time things to the last second, keep a steady rhythm throughout. The metronomic precision of these broadcasts, rising and falling as the seconds tick down, keep us in a state of aural bliss, sending wave after steady wave of perfectly aligned pleasure through the airwaves until we fall back, fully satisfied as the final, heady pause signals the start of another day.

These contrasting approaches are a joy, and if they sounded a lot like metaphors for some other kind of pleasure, then that comparison is intentional. As a writer, I’m in love with language, and although it may seem ironic that, in the Shipping Forecast, I actually don’t understand a lot of what I’m being told, the impact of that language is still powerful, and in the hands of a skilled orator, even more effective. So this, if you like, is my love letter to the Shipping Forecast and those who deliver it. It’s totally worth the 5.20am wake up time!

Listing the weather conditions in 31 sea areas surrounding the British Isles, the Shipping Forecast is read out at 5.20 am, 12.01 pm, 5.54 pm and 00.48 am. The first and last broadcasts of the day also include report (2)

Fancy a read this weekend? How about one of these? Click the pic to go to my Amazon page!

Art Imitating Life – 10 ‘true’ things in my novels.

The truth can be stranger than fiction…

Like most authors, I often get asked if I base my characters or events on real life things, and, like most authors, I always say no! However, now that my latest novel, ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’, has been published, I thought it would be nice to talk about the elements of reality in my fiction. I bet I’m not alone in using real life things to inspire made up stories. So, here are ten things that feature in my five novels (to date) and their real life inspirations.

  1. The Strawberry Line footpath, Sandford to Winscombe. This one’s a real no-brainer, and I even call it by name in my first three novels! This picturesque ex-railway line is where a lot of my characters do their walking in the Little Somerby novels.
  2. An old blue suitcase in ‘A Place to Call Home’. My heroine Holly gets given a blue suitcase from her parents with the contents of her university bedroom inside, from fifteen years ago. That suitcase is currently sitting under my bed, and, yes, it does contain a photograph of someone I’d completely forgotten about but had cause to remember when they appeared back in the public eye! My lips are sealed as to who it actually is, though…
  3. Jonathan Carter’s ‘drinking tree’ on Wavering Down in ‘Springtime at the Cider Kitchen’. This hawthorn tree does exist, just off the footpath across the top of the plain.
  4. Matthew and Meredith Carter’s university choice. Well, it could only be the University of York, since I had such a wonderful and formative time there! York creeps in a few times in my books, just because it had such a huge influence on my life.
  5. Carter’s Cider Most people know this, but I grew up next to the behemoth that is Thatchers Cider in Somerset, so when it came to creating a convincing setting for my own cider farm, I ‘borrowed’ their geography and technology. They don’t seem to mind, though!
  6. The Great Western Air Ambulance and Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance charities. My forthcoming novel was inspired when I saw the DSAA helicopter landing and taking off from the fields near where I live. I was privileged to be able to interview some of the people, including the pilots, who work for both of charities, and that research helped me to create a fully rounded character, Sam, for the novel. He works for the fictional Somerset Air Ambulance, which is created from all of the information I was lucky enough to learn from these amazing people and organisations.
  7. The mouse up the trouser leg incident in ‘A Place to Call Home’. This was based on my poor sister in law’s experience at my parents’ house, many years ago, when one of their cats caught a mouse and it ran straight up her jeans! She handled it a whole lot better than Charlie does, in the novel!
  8. Anna’s Tea Shop in ‘The Second Chance Tea Shop’ is based on a tea room in the village where I live, that even has a fabulous window for Jonathan Carter to look out and watch the world go by!
  9. The song that Charlie and Holly dance to in her living room is ‘You’re Makin’ Me High’ by Toni Braxton.
  10. I hadn’t realised that the names I gave Holly’s parents are, in fact the names of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts’ characters, Vivian and Edward, in Pretty Woman. This was pointed out to me by my mother after the book was published, and is a spooky parallel with the actual Pretty Woman reference in the book, which is Holly’s dress from the charity shop!

Intrigued? Click the pics to be taken to my Amazon author page, and find out more about my novels!

Poem!💖

Rather proud of this poem from my daughter :). She’s been making her own podcasts, too!

Flora's Week Show Blog

I’ve been thinking of doing a poem for a long time and here it is.

Winter

Frost curls up on my window,

Like my cat inside.

I run my hands through the condensation.

I Whisper ‘it’s winter

The winter like sun shone through the Grey, Puffed up clouds

The grass is as moist as fruitcake freshly baked.

It’s winter.

It’s winter.

View original post

Fear and Darkness in The Karate Kid. (Or, how I learned to look properly at Johnny Lawrence.)

**This is part one of a short series of blog posts about my observations of the Karate Kid franchise of films and the TV show Cobra Kai. First up; how perceptions of a text can alter, the older you get.**

Karate kidIf someone had told my thirteen year old self I’d be writing a blog post (not that there were such things as blogs when I was thirteen!) on the subject of The Karate Kid‘s chief antagonist, Johnny Lawrence, I’d have giggled pathetically and pledged eternal allegiance to Daniel LaRusso. At aged thirteen, for me, the narrative of that most perfect of films was clear cut; light versus darkness; Cobra Kai versus Miyagi-do; hero wins, villain loses. Scrappy kid from New Jersey moves to California, gets bullied, learns karate from enigmatic teacher-handyman, falls in love, wins tournament, job done.

But perhaps not.

Fast forward thirty years and it’s a slightly different story. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I haven’t watched The Karate Kid in over twenty five years. I know for a fact that I’ve never watched it with my husband, and we’ve been together that long! But yesterday afternoon I decided it was time to introduce KK to my daughters, and, despite the fact that my husband fell asleep (so we’ve still, technically, never watched it together!), a good time was had by the remaining three of us!

screen-shot-2020-10-19-at-17.23.13Anyone who’s been following my Twitter feed lately will know that I recently watched the YouTube produced (and now Netflix streamed) Cobra Kai, and to say that CK is a gamechanger is a bit of an understatement. I absolutely adored it, so part of the reason for wanting to watch KK again was to refresh my memory and see if I’d caught all of the references in CK. But in the end, it wasn’t quite the experience I’d anticipated.

screen-shot-2020-10-20-at-11.50.57-1Now, I’ll admit freely that CK turns the KK world on its head a bit. Following, as it does, the potentially redemptive journey of Johnny Lawrence, 34 years after he lost the final of the All Valley Karate Championship, it’s very much through Johnny’s eyes that we recall the events of the first (and to a point the second) KK film. But what interested me from the moment William Zabka came on screen in the original film was how I, as an adult, immediately changed my perspective of that character. A lot of this, of course, comes from the back story and world building of CK, but there was one thing that struck me about Zabka’s performance in nearly all of the film’s scenes. He’s playing Johnny as completely and utterly terrified, almost the whole time. Barring his entrance scene on the bike (where there’s certainly anger and heartbreak framed as aggression), and the couple of rare moments where he’s at ease (mostly with friends, sitting on the bike at school, or schmoozing Ali’s mum at the country club), Johnny is scared.

For me, it’s in the eyes it’s most obvious – Zabka’s playing Johnny as on the verge of tears that never come, almost the whole time. 
Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 17.57.05Once I’d realised that, I just kept noticing it, all the way through the film. Take, for instance, the scene after Mr Miyagi has taken on Johnny and the gang after the Hallowe’en dance. Johnny’s distracted by Daniel and Mr Miyagi at the back of the Cobra Kai dojo. But is he scared of Mr Miyagi because of the night before, or because he’s afraid of what John Kreese will do when he finds out why he’s sporting a black eye? He seems reassured when Kreese responds positively to him, but that nervous half-smile when he tells Kreese feels forced, as if he knows there will be worse to come. His body language here is not that of someone who’s been reassured; it’s as if he just knows this isn’t the end of it. And while, of course, he’s a footsoldier in the image below, standing at attention beside his General, and that might explain the body language, there’s a palpable tension here perhaps interpreted as fear of attack from all sides.Screen Shot 2020-10-20 at 13.47.57

Throughout the whole film, there’s just this sense of ‘banked fires under colossal control’ (to quote Jilly Cooper) when it comes to the character of Johnny Lawrence. You can see the fear, the nerves, the genuine terror of failure written all over him, even when he’s trying his hardest to be the opposite, and I think that’s Zabka’s real strength, even at that young age. To an adult, that kind of reaction to stress in a young man would suggest trauma, abuse, grooming, even, and yet as a teenager I just didn’t see it. Of course, the intuitive links are obvious; one reading of the film is that Kreese is an arch manipulator who sets his students against one another and against the outsiders of Daniel and Mr Miyagi. That kind of behaviour has more than a suggestion of abuse. Close ranks, deny everything, but bleed to death on the inside. It’s testament to both William Zabka and the fabulous Martin Kove that this dynamic works so well on film.

Screen Shot 2020-10-20 at 11.48.03That realisation, that all is much darker in the Cobra Kai dojo than I’d ever imagined as a teenager,  is the thing that really shocked me this time around, more than anything, and it goes to show what a couple of decades does to alter your perception of events. Right at the end of the film, after the crane kick that wins Daniel the fight, Johnny is absolutely alone. Apart from the match officials, there’s no-one there to pick up the pieces, to offer any comfort. His friends are on the sidelines, as is Kreese; Johnny’s isolation is total. The contrast between him and Daniel is obvious, with Daniel being surrounded by friends and family in triumph. That’s what makes Johnny’s last gesture particularly powerful as he takes the trophy from the official and presents it to Daniel himself, uttering ‘you’re all right, LaRusso, good match.’ Broken grace just about sums it up. He’s on the verge of breaking down, but he doesn’t. And that’s something I noticed even more when I started watching Cobra Kai, of which more in the next post!

Screen Shot 2020-10-20 at 13.54.15

 

 

Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace by Fay Keenan

Thanks so much for the review, Katherine – I’m really glad you enjoyed ‘Snowflakes Over Bay tree Terrace’!

Just Katherine

About the Book: 
As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…
When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.
Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.
But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?
Let Fay Keenan transport you to the…

View original post 135 more words

‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ by Fay Keenan

Such a gorgeous review – thank you so much for reading and being part of the tour xxx

gingerbookgeek

Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace (Willowbury Book 2) by [Fay Keenan]

Synopsis

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

My Review

I have read a couple of Fay’s…

View original post 622 more words

Birthday Resolutions

Everyone has their milestones through the year, I think. For me, apart from New Year’s Day, there’s the start of the Autumn term, and, especially now I’m getting older, my birthday, which was yesterday. It’s a time to reassess, I suppose, and to try to put some things in place for the following year. I can’t always say I stick to them, but the hope is always there! It’s been a full on week, as well, starting as it did with a funeral, then a book launch and ending with a birthday.

A couple of years ago on my birthday, I resolved to give up alcohol for a year. For four whole months I kept to it, and I felt hugely better, more alert and more healthy. Then, on Boxing Day of that year I fell off that particular wagon in a gloriously sozzled heap in front of a load of Christmas movies and a table load of snacks. For a moment I was disappointed that I hadn’t made the year (or even the end of the calendar year!), but then I figured that four months was pretty good for a girl who likes a drink, and felt a bit better. This year I’m determined to be more ‘one day at a time’ in my approach to this particular aim.

There’s always the perennial ‘I will lose X amount of weight before my next birthday’ resolution, which comes with being a curvaceous blonde who likes food and drink a little too much. This year, that feels more important with concerns about Covid-19 and excessive weight being linked. While I’m not in the obese category, I could stand to lose a few stone, so this may well end up being a resolution if only to try to keep myself safer from the virus.

And, linked to these, there’s the idea of self-care, not self-indulgence. I’m not great at the former, and a little too good at the latter – letting myself off the hook for things I should know better about, and compensating myself with things that are bad for me to make myself feel better – usually cake, biscuits, cheese and wine! I do have a self-sabotaging streak, but I’m determined to get that under control this year. Even if it’s tiny things, like remembering to slap on some moisturiser in the morning, I think this might have to be a goal. I’m indulgent of my own failures to the detriment of my own physical and mental health, and this needs to stop. No more making excuses for cracking open the wine, stressing out or eating the cake. I’m going to try to be more mindful and control my impulses when needed!

It’s not just my 43rd birthday that has made me think about all this this week, though. We lost someone very important recently, who we laid to rest on Tuesday in beautiful and moving service. She was one of the coolest, loveliest, most kick-the-ass-out-of-life people I’d ever known, and I, like everyone who knew her, felt blessed to have had her in my life. Fighting fit before the cancer came, she lived life on her terms, and made a huge success of it. I will miss her a great deal, and her passing has made me consider so much about the way I handle day to day life. Although I might still eat the cake, drink the wine and make excuses, I want to make this birthday year the one where I do, actually, see some differences in my physical and mental health, and stop worrying about the irrelevant things in life. Here’s hoping this time, that might be the case.

My new novel, ‘Snowflakes Over Bay Tree Terrace’ is out now! Click the pic to buy:

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

Let Fay Keenan transport you to the perfect country winter wonderland, with roaring firesspectacular scenery, and unforgettable characters.  Perfect for all fans of Cathy Bramley, Fern Britton and Katie Fforde.

What authors and readers say about Fay Keenan’s novels:

 ‘A gorgeous rural romance full of warmth and charm.’ Victoria Connelly

‘Guaranteed to put a spring in your step. Feel-good, frisky and great fun with a hearty dash of romance and intrigue.’ Julie Houston

‘Moving, funny, thoughtful and romantic. Bring on the next one!’ Jenny Kane

Want to read the books in order? Try this one first!

Birthday resolutions…

Snowflakes over Bay Tree Terrace Fay Keenan

Such a beautiful review of ‘Snowflakes…’ – I’m touched beyond belief. Thanks so much! x

Little Miss Book Lover 87

Thrilled to join this blog tour.

As the snowflakes fall, new love blossoms…

When teacher Florence Ashton receives a surprise inheritance, she decides to make the life-changing decision to up sticks to the charming town of Willowbury in Somerset. With a new house and a new job, she’s too busy putting down roots to think about love.

Air Ambulance pilot Sam Ellis is definitely not looking for romance either, especially not on his doorstep. When Florence, his new neighbour, complains about his noisy housemate, he feels more cross than star-crossed.

But as the nights draw in and both find themselves thrown together in Willowbury’s seasonal drama production, will they overcome their differences and allow a little bit of winter magic to fall along with the snow? And what secrets will be revealed by the box of memories Florence finds in the attic at Bay Tree Terrace?

Let Fay Keenan transport…

View original post 136 more words