Archive | September 2012

Work in Progress

I was asked to do this by Catherine Lumb. I think it’s an interesting excercise to make you think about your writing.

What is the title of the book/WIP?

The book is called Crucial Evidence. Apart from WIP it’s had about five titles including ‘Defending the Innocent.’ and ‘Missing Alibi’

Where did the idea come from?

I know that defending an innocent man is the hardest thing a barrister can do. I expanded on that theme so that my main character goes to unusal lengths to ensure her client gets a fair trial.

What Genre is your WIP.

It’s a crime novel, legal drama.

Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition.

I am tempted to say Maxine Peake as she plays a very similar character in Silk, but prehaps she should play my police officer, Alexis Seymour, and Anne Marie Duff could play Cassie Hardman, my barrister, but perhaps she’s too attractive for Cassie.

What is your one sentence synopsis of your WIP

Female barrister Cassie Hardman, sure her client is innocent of murder, searches for a crucial witness, and with Police woman, Alexis Seymour, finds the witness and then identifies the real killer.

Is your WIP published or represented?

I have sent the book to a number of Literary Agents without any sucess, but this year the consulting editor of a major publishing house asked to read the whole book. She didn’t want to take it any further after reading the novel, but she made some suggestions about the book and I am now redrafting it with those in mind with the intention of resubmitting it again.

How long did it take to write it?

About three years so far. I keep on rewriting it when I see flaws or I’ve had comments about it from Literary Agents, which make sense to me.

What other books within your genre would you compare it with.

‘Presumed Innocent’ by Scott Turow, the outstanding example of  a legal thriller, and John Grisham’s ‘A Time to Kill.’

Which authors inspired you to write this WIP

Charles Dickens. ‘Bleak House’ is a great legal drama with strong identifiable characters.  You can find the same types in the legal profession today.

Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project?

If you have ever asked yourself how can a barrister represent a person they believe is guilty, you will find the answer.


The Ball Gown

Our Writing Group spent a Day at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter this week. We wandered round and looked at the exhibits and we each choose and item to write about. I selected this ball gown and wrote the beginning of an Historical Romance.

‘Will he notice me? He must,’ Sophia said. Her breath coming in short bursts as her maid, Anna, pulled tight the corset round her waist.

The invitation to the Big House had arrived six weeks ago. A large stiff card edged in gold with her name written on it in an educated hand.

‘Sir William and Lady Goldbrough would like the pleasure of your company at a Grand Ball on 23rd October 1883 at 9pm.’

Sophia’s immediate reaction was one of ennui. Country Balls were so, well, boring; young girls twittering and giggling, awkward young men who trod on your toes and talked of hunting and fishing. So tedious after the excitement of a season in London, but that had been four years ago.

Her father had grumbled at the expense of her time in the city, and when she came home without having received a single proposal of marriage, he begrudged the expenditure. She didn’t dare tell him she had refused an offer from the ugliest man doing the season.

Then Anna told her she had learnt that Robert Goldbrough, Sir William’s youngest son had returned from Canada.

‘He’s worth six thousand pounds a year.’ Anna exclaimed.

Robert and Sophia had been childhood playmates, running around the estate, playing in the streams and ponds and climbing trees, until he went first to Eton and then Oxford. They saw each other when he came home on vacation, but slowly drifted apart as he became more worldly, and she remained stuck in her rural backwater. Now he was back.

‘Is his wife with him?’ she asked.

‘No, Miss Sophia. He’s not married. Yet.’ Anna pulled the brush through Sophia’s hair, straightening the tangles, of her strawberry blonde hair.

When Anna had left her, Sophia went to her wardrobe and searched through her ball-dresses. She took out first one, then another, throwing them on her bed. She needed a new gown; something so beautiful that everyone in the room would admire her.

She said nothing for a couple of days, then, when she thought her father was in a good mood, she went down to breakfast early.

‘You’re early,’ her father said.

‘Yes, I wanted to ask you about something.’

He looked at her over his newspaper, waiting to hear her request.

‘I’ve been invited to the Goldbrough’s Ball, and I really need a new gown.’

‘What’s wrong with those you had for London. Won’t one of those do?’  He began to read the paper again.

‘Those old things. No. No. I need something more fashionable, now I’m older.’

‘You need a husband to pay your bills.’

She let him continue reading and nibbled on a slice of toast.

‘Robert’s back from Canada.’ She paused, ‘Unmarried.’

Her father folder the newspaper and placed it by the side of his plate, picked up one of his letters and slide the blade of a knife through the envelope to open it. He pulled out the sheet of paper, and then looked up at Sophia.

‘Go and see your dressmaker, but don’t spend too much money.’

‘Thank-you, Papa.’ She blew him a kiss as she hurried from the room.

The parlour of Mrs Haworth’s house was stuffed with fabrics, silk, satins and velvet as well as the more homely cottons, worsteds and linen. Hanging out of the drawers were ribbons of every conceivable colour, intricate lace and beads of every size and shape. Sophia touched the silks, her hand lingering against the soft fabric. She held up a piece to her face, to gauge the effect on the colour of her skin and her eyes.

‘Blue, I think blue. What do you think, Mrs Haworth,’ Sophia said to the little dumpling of a dressmaker.

Mrs Haworth held out a swatch of midnight blue.

‘Something lighter, nearer the colour of my eyes.’

The dressmaker searched through a pile of cloths, and then produced a fine corded silk the colour of a summer sky.

Sophia sighed deeply. ‘Yes, that’s it.’

‘And the bodice and underskirt of cream,’ said Mrs Haworth. ‘I have just the thing.’

She dived into a cupboard and pulled out a bolt of figured silk satin in two shades of cream.

‘There, hold that against your skin.’

Sophia took it, held it against her cheek. Her face took on the bloom of a fresh pink rose. The silk was soft and tactile, irresistible. Just what she was looking for.

‘We’ll cut the bodice just so,’ said Mrs Haworth running her finger so that it just crossed the top of Sophia’s breasts. ‘The over dress we’ll cut like a coat, with points just here.’ She pointed to hip-level.

‘And a train?’

‘Yes, of course. Just like the London fashions.’

‘Now for trimming the bodice, I’ve got these.’ Mrs Haworth bobbed down and opened the bottom drawer. She pulled out a roll of net embellished with glass beads, the shape of maple leaves.’

Sophia hugged herself. ‘He will notice me,’ she whispered to herself. 

What other ways have writers used to fire the imagination.


Coincidences happen all the time, but how easy is it to make them convincing in a novel. A senior editor told me it was easier in a play or film because the viewer has less time to think than the reader. Would you find this convincing?

I have owned a small cottage in the South of France for twenty five years, and when we first bought it we wanted to have a roof terrace. Somewhere to eat and sit in the sun. We were advised to speak to a builder in the next village, a Monsieur Martin. He was described as a ‘Homme Serious’ meaning he was well respected. We went to see him at his home to discuss our proposal for the new terrace. He was sturdy, dark haired and spoke French with a strong Provencal accent. His wife was an attractive brunette, who moved swiftly around the large sitting room, fetching coffee and water for us, as we had walked from our cottage to their house and it was very hot. From time to time she translated his heavily accented French into a more standard version.

While we were in England the following winter, M. Martin did the work on our terrace, but when we asked him to do some more work he declined, saying he was building a school in a nearby town and would be occupied there for some time to come. In spite of living very near to us and in a village we visited frequently, we never saw him again.

Now we have sold the cottage and this summer was the last visit we would make with our dog, Rudi. Three days before we left Uzes, we took Rudi to the vets to have his worm treatment and his passport updated, for the return to the UK. The surgery was very busy and the waiting room was full of other people with their dogs. The only cat owner decided to stand outside rather than risk causing mayhem. In addition to us, their was a sophisticated woman in a blue and orange shift dress with her six month old brown labrador, a large Alsation who appeared to have a cough with his two equally large owners. Sitting at the far end of the row of seats from us, was an elderly couple with very old poodle. The dog was emaciated and unable to stand on all four legs.

When the vet came to call them into the consulting room, she said, ‘Monsieur Martin.’

‘I thought I recognised him,’ Alan said to me.

‘Are you sure,’ I said.

At first the man refused to go in, but his wife insisted. She lead the way towards the consulting room, with the poodle gamely following. M. Martin trailed behind her, his steps heavy and slow.

Some ten minutes later, we saw them emerge from the door at the rear of the building. M. Martin was carrying a plain brown box. There was no sign of the poodle.

We were called by the vet for our consultation. We got up and walked towards her office. Alan asked her if that was M. Martin from our village and she said it was. The dog had been so ill, there was no option but to end it’s life.

Is it a true story or not?