Sunday, March 30, 2008

Inspector Lynley Mysteries

The BBC have recently started to repeat the excellent Inspector Lynley Mysteries, penned by the fabulous Elizabeth George. You can read last year's interview published in The Writer Magazine, here:

I was very surprised when I first discovered that Ms. George is an American. I would have sworn that the author was very much a true Brit. What she does as it explains in the interview is to never write about a place she has not been to first. That's what sets this drama apart, the realism. She gets under the skin of each character and the settings are places she knows.

It's very helpful of course that the lead, Inspector Lynley, happens to be played by handsome actor, Nathaniel Parker.

Parker is very easy on the eye and I'm sure, like the romantic lead in a romance novel, women fall in love with him.

So, it's very strange that the BBC should stop making a successful series like this. Over the Easter holidays, I noticed that a lot of TV programmes shown on both terrestrial and Sky TV, were of a crime related nature. For example, Murder She Wrote, Midsomer Murders, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Damages and Bones, etc.

People will always enjoy a good murder mystery to scare the living daylights out of them!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Top Ten Grammatical Irks

Okay, you've had my top ten hates of a grumpy woman, so how about my top ten grammatical irks? Not even sure if that is grammatically correct!

10. The misuse of the word of instead of have. You must of known. This should of course be: You must have known. Soap opera scriptwriters seem to be guilty of this error, especially Eastenders. It could be that the actors themselves are changing things and not the script writers but it's something I'm hearing more and more these days.

9. Whenever I see the word 'I' [as in myself] written with a small i instead of a capital I, I go ballistic! It might sound petty but it looks bad in my book.

8. Who's instead of Whose. These are commonly mixed up by people. Who's refers to who is and whose should refer in this context: Whose baby is it?

7. Bear versus Bare. For example, He has a bear behind, instead of: He has a bare behind. Of course the former might be perfectly correct if a large Grizzly standing happened to be standing behind him!

6. Whether versus Weather. Should be: Whether you decide to weather the storm...etc.

5. It's versus Its: 'It's is short for 'it is' or 'it has ('it's snowing'), whereas 'its' is a possessive pronoun, as in 'its coat.'

4. Ensure versus Insure. Ensure means to make sure or certain, whereas insure means to guarantee against loss or harm.

3. Me and I. People are afraid to use the word 'Me' in its correct context and will often say something like: 'Give John and I a ring.' To find out if this is correct use of the word 'I' just remove John from the sentence. You would never say 'Give I a ring', would you? It's 'Give me a ring.' Don’t be afraid of me.

2. Alright or All right? Although most people seem to favour 'Alright' it should be two words: 'All right'.

1. Definately or Definitely? It's definitely definitely!

Monday, March 24, 2008

When should you call yourself a writer?

It wasn't until I received my first pay cheque that I actually said: "Now I'm a real writer!" The cheque was for an article I had published on an American website a few years ago.

How wrong I was.

I have been paid for my writing quite a few times since then, not just for my novels but for articles in magazines too. Yet, I always was a writer -- even if I didn't call myself one.

The first person who put any value on my writing was one of my school teachers, Mrs Robinson. Mrs Robinson was young and trendy and she spoke about controversial issues: "Do you know we could all be blown up by an atomic bomb at any time!" I was fourteen and she worried me to death.

Yet, I loved her lessons. At night I read magazines like 'Loving' and 'Love Affair' under the bedcovers by torchlight. The stories were written in the first person and obviously meant for grown ups, although they were pretty tame.

So, in English lessons I wrote my own stories. It's no wonder I love TV programmes like The Sopranos today and films like The Godfather, because back then I remember writing a story about a man who killed his wife, chopped her up into little pieces and disposed of her body in a hay baling machine! I don't know if any other teacher would have read out my story to the class but Mrs Robinson did!

When she read my stories and the bell went before the end, some of the girls would gather around outside the classroom door while one of them read the story through to the end. So I was a natural story teller way back then, although I didn't realise it. Didn't think I had any particular talent.

It wasn't until around 1999 that I joined a creative writing class at a local library, by then I was nearing forty, and feared the rest of the group would be very high brow: men wearing dicky bows who smoked pipes and women in tweed suits! How wrong I was. Despite being the 'baby of the group', some were as old as 80+, I learned a lot from them and realised they were just ordinary people like myself.

Attending that writing group gave me a good grounding as we critiqued one another's stories and poems, but I still didn't feel able to call myself a writer.

Receiving that cheque and contract in the post a few years back didn't make me a writer either. You see, I always was a writer practically from the moment I was able to write -- I just didn't know it.

Friday, March 21, 2008


As today is Good Friday, the beginning of the Easter weekend, I would like to share a poem. I don't write poetry that often as I have to be in the mood. However, my mother, who goes to the Salvation Army over 60 meetings on a weekly basis, said they were looking for poems on the theme of HOPE. So I picked up a pen and paper this morning and this poem flew from my pen.


~ Lynette Rees ~

Hope is expectation of the unseen

Hope is having faith to believe

Hope is found in the name of one man

Hope is a gift from God

Hope is a burning candle in the night

Hope is a belief that things will turn out right

Hope is eternal – it never fades away

Hope is a gift from God

Hope is here today – right now with you

Hope is within and without ever true

Hope is all – both Alpha and Omega

Hope is a gift from God

Hope is one man who has a blessed name

Hope fills an empty space where despair has been

Hope gives meaning to our lives full of care

Jesus is that gift from God

Jesus is our hope, diminishing despair

Jesus is our light in the darkness out there

Jesus is our precious gift from Him

Jesus is our hope, our eternal King.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What I Learned about Writing from 'The Sopranos'

In my humble opinion, The Sopranos was the best show aired on TV for ages. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought each series and watched them four times over! Every time I watched it, I learned something new.

So what is it about the programme that appeals to me?

Well for a start, the characters are believable and their situations interesting. Who would have thought that a show about a mob boss who suffers from anxiety attacks would get such massive ratings? Or that the final ending would cause so much controversy?

As a writer, who pens both fiction and non fiction, here's what I learned from The Sopranos:

1. Not to make my villains all bad

There's no doubt about it, mob boss Tony Soprano is a bad guy, after all, if you cross him you're liable to end up six foot under. Now if he was an out and out hit man with no redeeming features, he would not be such a likable character. Likable? Tony Soprano? I hear you cry. Yes. The guy does have some redeeming features. He likes animals. Remember how he got upset when he found out that the family dog had not 'gone to a farm' as he thought, but was given away to his father's mistress and son? Or the time, the race horse, Pie-0-My, bought by his cousin, Ralph Cifaretto, gets sick. Tony rushes over to the stables and pays the bill. The vet has been withholding treatment because Ralph hasn't been paying him. Tony stays and comforts the horse. Tony is absolutely devastated when the horse eventually dies in an insurance-fiddle fire at the stables.

So Tony cares about animals but does he care about people? Yeah, sure he does. He cares about his children. He wants them both to have good lives. Whether he truly cares about his wife, Carmela, is of course debatable because of his constant affairs. He also shows kindness to his mother even though she plotted against him and to Uncle Junior in some respects, even though he shot Tony.

So, he's not all bad. He has a vulnerable side and that's what we like about him. We laugh with him and we cry with him.

2. My plots need to be character led

Plot evolves from character. Have you noticed how if Tony has a bad day then everyone else is going to know it and his actions have a ripple-on effect? He might shout at his son, AJ, for example, let his wife Carmela down by sleeping with another woman, walk out on his shrink Dr. Melfi in the middle of a session, or even worse, put a bullet in the back of someone's head!

I have learned that character drives plot. Not only that, but character is plot and even certain settings can become characters in themselves. For example, The Bada Bing club can evoke feelings of menace at times when something sinister is afoot, or equally, it can feel a light hearted place depending on the mood of the plot. Or what about Tony's swimming pool at home? Look at the time the ducks arrived. The pool and the ducks seemed to represent how he felt at that particular time coinciding with his mood. When the ducks left he became depressed.

3. Not to sleep with the fishes

Okay, not many of us want to end up sleeping with the fishes in the ocean like Big Pussy Bonpensiero. He was like the older brother, Tony never had, but of course Tony felt justified in getting him bumped off having found out he was an FBI informant. Tony's haunted by it later of course. But that aside, 'not sleeping with the fishes' here, with regards to writing, I'm talking about is not letting my manuscript gather dust in the drawer or languish on disc. If it never sees the light of day then I've little chance of seeing it published. I need to take a chance and send it out somewhere and if it gets rejected, then back out it goes again and again until it finds a suitable home. Some times it might need some revision to make it publishable but that's not always such a bad thing if it makes my story even stronger. I need to be in it to win it!

4. Keep the reader guessing

The ending of The Sopranos has to be one of the most controversial endings of all time. There are those who felt cheated by it and those, like myself, who have read something else into it and feel in retrospect that it was a brilliant ending.

Many fans anticipated a bloody massacre for emotionally tortured New Jersey captain, Tony Soprano, his mob, and even his family.

David Chase, the show's creator, who wrote and directed the finale, chose to cut to a blank screen which left many viewers wondering if the connection to their television sets had somehow worked loose. As the ending is ambiguous, there is another way to look at it of course, that maybe Tony and his family just had an uneventful evening at the diner after all and that the suspicious looking man who left to go the gentleman's room [a scene reminiscent of The Godfather] did just that, went to relieve himself and did not go there to grab a gun hidden in the cistern to shoot Tony and co while they were in the middle of eating a plate of onion rings! This scene gave the viewer the impression that Tony would be forever looking over his shoulder in the future.

We shall never know for certain of course. I prefer to think of Tony, Carmela and the kids still alive and living somewhere in a parallel universe. But that's the beauty of David Chase's ending, he left the reader guessing. There's nothing worse than a predictable ending and that one was anything but! So in summary, the things I've learned are that villains shouldn't be all bad, character drives plot, manuscripts need to get sent out and to keep the reader guessing!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

And the winner is...

The winner of the recent competition I held on this blog is Sarah Elizabeth Rose. Congratulations!! A copy of A Taste of Honey will be winging its way towards you as soon as you send me your e-mail address!

You can send it to if you haven't already contacted me!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mothering Sunday [yesterday]

I had a lovely Sunday. It was Mother's Day here in the UK. My daughter and her boyfriend, Rob, turned up to cook me Sunday lunch. Honestly, I didn't have to do a thing all day -- it was all done for me!

Rob did all the cooking, although Leyna helped prepare the potatoes! The meal was gorgeous, even better than my own Sunday lunches -- Rob's roast potatoes were to die for. We also had chicken with stuffing, dumplings, and vegetables. Oh and Yorkshire pudding! This was followed by a toffee cheesecake. Leyna and Rob also brought me a bottle of bubbly.

The day couldn't have gone any better. They also bought me a real nice new skirt with a fancy belt -- should look nice with my boots, and a pink nightie with the words 'Yummy Mummy!' on the front.

Nathan, my son, brought me a bouquet of lilac and pink flowers and a box of chocolates. My mother joined us for lunch as well, as it was her Mother's Day too. I bought her a funny DVD called Keeping Mum, starring Rowan Atkinson, Kirstin Scott Thomas, Patrick Swayze and Maggie Smith, and a box of Belgian chocs. I also treated her to a meal in the Castle hotel the day before [see previous post].

My hubby came back from Ireland last night and brought me a take-away, so again I had no need to lift a finger, Leyna had even washed up for me!

I'm back to earth with a bump today though. The dish washer has blown up [no not my daughter, the real dishwasher], I shouldn't have ignored that burning smell of rubber lol.

By the way, now I know I'm really an author. I set up a Google alert to check on the progress of my latest book, A Taste of Honey. I just received an alert. It's being sold on e-bay and two people are bidding for it!

See here!

At least I know people are buying it. It also said on the site last night that there was only one copy left in stock. Is that a good sign or not? That's never happened with any of my other books, so I'll take it that it is!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

St. David's Day!

Today, the first of March, is St. David's Day. We Welsh are a patriotic bunch!

I took my mother out for a meal lunch time as a precursor to Mother's Day tomorrow. We went to the Castle Hotel. They must have a new chef as the meals have been fantastic recently. Not just the taste but the presentation as well.

Then we did a little shopping as we always do around the town on a Saturday afternoon. As I came out of one shop I heard someone belting out 'Mama Told Me Not to Come' on the microphone at the bottom of the escalator. It turned out to be a Tom Jones impersonator, who sounded so good, for a split second I wondered if it was the old boyo himself! He did look a lot like him but unless Tom has been on a diet lately, then it couldn't have been him. Just kidding -- I've seen Tom Jones on stage a couple of times. Of course, I knew it wasn't him but there was a faint possibility as he was born just 12 miles away from here.

This week I joined a women's crime writing organisation called, Sisters in Crime. After my fiasco with the Crime Writers' Association, I was pleased to find somewhere that wasn't up it's own backside!

See previous post about my dealings with the CWA here:

Writing Association Snobbery!

The Sisters in Crime newsletter is very interesting.

I read a book this week written by a member [although I didn't realise she was a member when I read it]. The book is called Evan's Gate and the author, Rhys Bowen. I absolutely loved the book. I couldn't put it down and it had a special interest for me as it's set in Wales, so I knew most of the location and the protagonist has the same name as my great great grandfather, Evan Evans.

Isn't it great when you read a book and you don't want to put it down?

I also made one of my favourite Welsh meals this week, Leek and Potato Bake. It's so easy to make and very tasty too. There are lots of variations of this recipe and I suppose you can adapt it to suit yourself.

So, this has been a very Welsh week for me, which is pertinent really as it's St. David's Day today!