Sunday, 23 February 2014

Help a Child With Cancer

I am  happy to be helping the charity Clic sargent  to raise funds for  children  suffering from cancer. It's good to be able to lend a helping hand, it might just make a little person's day a wee bit better.

And you can have some fun. Nice folk bid to name a character in a book after somebody they like. Normal folk bid much more money to name a character in a book after somebody they don't like, and ask them to get bumped off - fictionally.  Just think of the fun you could have with that old maths teacher who forced you to write quadratic equations  on the board - or the English teacher who made you recite the quality of mercy is not strained as they showed no mercy at all. Don't start me on gym teachers...
Somebody who will remain anon but is a very famous and respected expert in his field wanted his mother in law written into a book - as a crack addict prostitute who was found dead in a dumpster....

Have a look yourself... the web page is now live at
And the auction will be live at 8pm on the 27th Feb for 10 days.
 Here are the writers taking part,  I feel that Jane Bidder might have an unfair advantage....
  • Emily Barr
  • Jane Bidder
  • Alison Bruce
  • Belinda Bauer
  • Julie Cohen
  • Charles Cumming
  • Kate Ellis
  • Claire Dyer
  • Julie Farrell
  • Jemma Forte
  • Kate Furnivall
  • Jane Green
  • Elly Griffiths
  • Emylia Hall
  • Graham Hurley
  • Shaun Hutson
  • Lisa Jewell
  • Amanda Jennings
  • Susan Lewis
  • Colette McBeth
  • Andy McNab
  • Jean Oram
  • Caro Ramsey
  • Kate Rhodes
  • Joanna Trollope
  • Martyn Waites

Thank you,


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Bishop Of Terni Day

Happy February the 14th blog ! St Valentine’s Day! The patron saint of florists and chocolatiers. He is also the saint of love, engaged couples, young people, beekeepers, epilepsy, fainting, plague, and travellers. So if you are a young bee keeper with epilepsy and need a bouquet to hide your infected buboes  as you go on a journey to see your betrothed…. he’s your man.
It all seemed to be much more fun pre Christianity when the eligible men about town would run around dressed in the skin of a (recently) dead goat, whipping the backsides of young ladies with a thong of leather dripped in goat blood. Sounds like a normal Saturday night in Sauchiehall Street to me but in those days it was all in aid of fertility. Like an early form of IVF.
And in Sauchiehall Street, it still is.

In ancient Rome the 13th, 14h and 15th of February was a pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia. Lupercus being the Roman god of fertility. And that has all to do with Romulus and Remus and having a wolf for your mother and other stuff Freud would have a field day with. I don’t think it too much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that pope Galasius, being a good Christian, might have frowned on all this happiness and frolicking but was also very aware that the one way to encourage bad behaviour is to ban it.

 So he simply absorbed it into the Christian calendar, much to the relief of greeting card companies all over the globe. The 14th of February has remained a celebration of love, but the fun aspect of being spanked on the backside by a drunk with a whip while running through the street has evolved somewhat. It was thought that a blow from the whip (a februa) encouraged fertility in woman. The festival was called Febraiatus, from the verb februare to purify… hence that month is called February.!!!!
So it was all about fertility, purity, immunity from curses, protection from bad luck and the encouragement of reproduction. No doubt there was also the sense that spring and sunshine might be on their way.
The identity of the Saint Valentine (s) actually celebrated on the 14th of February is open to all kinds of conjecture but you can take your pick and mix and match from four different possibilities to suit your own taste.
The one thing they have in common? They all died a brutal death…. Well who said love was good for you…

Valentine the first contender! Valentinus of Rome.
In the days of Roman emperor Claudius II, only single men got drafted into the army so the clever ones got married to avoid it. Valentinus was executed on 14th Feb (conveniently) for performing marriages so that young men could avoid the draft… Just to cheer him up young lovers would visit him as he sat on death row and told him how much better love was than war. Bet that put his mind at ease!
St Valentine, the second contender.
This one, Valentine of Rome was beheaded and buried on the Via Flaminina and Pope Julius 1st was supposed to have built a basilica over the grave. He was initially arrested for being Christian, and while in jail he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, who was blind. Valentine wrote her love notes, signed from ‘your Valentine’.  This restored her sight and the jailor converted to Christianity.
The date of his execution? 14th February (conveniently).
 Valentine, the third contender.
The Bishop of Terni, who I always think of as the front runner. Little is known of his life except that he was very amenable – dying conveniently on the 14th of February.  His relics were taken back to Terni.
He was martyred in the reign of Emperor Aurelian by being imprisoned, tortured then beheaded on the Via Flaminia in Rome for his Christianity. This was by the order of a Roman called…. Placid Furius??? Who sounds so Monty Python he must be real.
Valentinus, the fourth contender.
This bloke was a gnostic teacher in Rome and had nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, gnostism came to be regarded as heresy so Valentinus went out of favour slightly but he did argue that love and marriage was central to Christian belief. I think he can be disregarded as he did not have the good grace to die on the 14th of February and this shows some lack of effort on his part.

Moving forward in time, in 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about St Valentine's Day in celebration of the engagement of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. By Valentine’s Day he probably meant the 2nd of May which is the saint's day in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa.

A few years after that the French seem to get in on the act and on 14th February a court opened in Paris to deal with matters of love, marriage, affairs, divorces etc.  Then in 1415 after the battle of Agincourt, a Frenchman (well it would have to be!) wrote the first recovered Valentine’s note to his sweetheart.  Charles, the Duke of Orleans was being held captive at the time. And probably had nothing better to do.
Two hundred years later Ophelia is harping on about Valentine’s Day to Hamlet who is out on a battlement ignoring her. This is starting to sound more familiar now.

Two hundred years later the passing of Valentine’s notes has become so common that the notes start to be mass produced in early form, a mixture of lace and paper, and we all know that this ends up with the rosy pink, satin sugar coated monstrosities with pictures of puppies with goitre that you can buy today.
Nowadays Valentine’s Day is the biggest card selling/sending event after Christmas.
As this blog also appears in Murder is Everywhere, it can’t really end without mentioning the Massacre. In 1929,  Al Capone  (allegedly)  ordered that  five gangster rivals  were ‘taken out’, not in the out for dinner sense, more in the line them up against a wall and shoot them sense.
Somehow roaming naked through the streets drunk whipping your friends on the bum sounds so much more fun..

Caro Ramsay  14th Feb 2014

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The End!! A great place to be...

It’s that funny time, that weird hiatus after pressing the most stressful button on the computer.

 New editor, new publisher, new type of book, it’s all kind of...well new! After months of scribbling and writing and stressing, suddenly…nothing.

I start to notice things; there are no clean dishes, one of children is 6 feet 2 (suddenly!), the dog is fat from  not being walked, the frosted glass in the windows turns out to be clear glass covered in cobwebs… oh and the kitchen ceiling has fallen in. I confess that I had noticed that last one but I had it on my ‘deal with it once the book is done’ list.
                                                           I used to have a Barbie. I dissected her.

That list is quite extensive. It’s nearly a book on its own.
So I am sailing out in new ventures and happily so.
When I am editing I tend not to sleep. My brain goes into a mish mash of regurgitation,  going over difficult scenes in my head, practicing dialogue to make sure it sounds real. It can be hard to switch off,  and I need to get up in the morning for the day job. So I make a point of reading something else – usually something marvellous – but this time I picked up a ‘first novel’ from someone who is now extremely famous – a huge best selling person, multi millionaire, clean socks, good aftershave  etc
And it was awful!
Really dreadful. So bad it made me laugh out loud.
The plot was James Bond meets the A Team with the cast of Emmanuel Five in supporting roles. I still can’t tell you what it was about but there was a Russian in there somewhere. 
It has been republished and repackaged. I found a recent  interview with him where he said that this novel was the fourth book he wrote, but the first book that was published. Then added, if you think that was bad, you should have seen the first three! .. and I would like to.  But he made the good point that all writers need to learn their craft. And now not that many get the chance.  It was interesting to see  how his talent has developed from those early days.
Ian Rankin was famously nearly dropped after book 4. It was book 5 that got to the top of the best sellers. My pal, nominated for a Gold Dagger, left ‘crime ‘at the end of book four to change genre completely, successfully I may add. But her crime publisher was not interested in a book five, no matter what kind of book it was.
So now I am in my hiatus. I’m 60 000 words into book 6 and researching  7. But I need that wee gap in my head… and the house needs hoovered,  the dog walked, and I need to phone a roofer.  Before  that I read the responses to PD James words of wisdom for writers in Red Herrings… and thought I would add my own.
no not him, that's P Diddy

                                                      This is PD!

 Because I can.
And I can’t be bothered phoning the builder.

You must be born to write.
Ms James said that you can’t teach people how to use words effectively and beautifully.  Chris Fowler said that curiosity about the world and its people shapes a writer more and I think I agree with him. Someone with a good imagination can learn the tools of the trade, learn to find their own voice and you can be the finest wordsmith in the world but you still need something interesting to say or a good story to tell. 
Write about what you know.
Well I don’t, I’ve never murdered anybody. Pretty sure PD hasn’t either.  I make it up! Fiction is fiction. Do the research about the stuff you don’t know. As I advise my students, get it written then get it right.

                                                                 Angela Gils Klocke
Find your own routine.
Very true. Having a full time job means I  don’t have time for writers block. Or housework. If in doubt get on with it. I am a Martini writer. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Be aware that the business is changing.
I know fellow authors  who network relentlessly and hassle editors and publicity people. One pal  got a row for stalking their publicity person by emailing her too often! I can’t be ar…d with all that.  I write, get the words on the paper and agree to any events I’m offered. I prepare myself well if I am asked to do a panel.  People get paid to chose my covers, they know about marketing so I let them get on with it. Or am I wrong?
Read, write and don’t day dream
Chris Fowler thinks that this is the  worst advice possible. I think they are both right. It depends on the day dream. Daydreaming in that creative space, walking the dog while working out a plot point pays dividends. The day dreaming in that fantasy space where you are being invited for coffee by George Clooney or you have woken up and are a size 10…. Maybe not so much. Then it is time to apply bum to seat, pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
Enjoy your own company , again I can write anywhere, with any noise (except attack toddlers and lawn mowers, but an attack toddler under a lawn mower is fine with me). My pal is a chic lit writer and she  goes to a  five star hotel  for a week and lives on room service and champagne ( both feature heavily in her books, so it’s tax deductible)  to get the plot right. Then comes homes and writes it,  but she has lots of very small children and no lawn mower so she probably needs to!
Choose a good setting
I think we all in MIE know the importance of that, murder IS everywhere, thank goodness. ..
Never go anywhere without a note book.
I don’t ( go anywhere without one), I buy notebooks the way other women buy shoes,  friends stick ideas on ipads and other swipey screen things that bing and bong, run out of battery and break when the dog sits on it. Not so with a pen and a bit of paper. It’s so much more creative and much less like work. And you can stick the good ideas  on your forehead so you don’t forget.
Never talk about a book before its finished.
I do, all the time. I chat to folk in my writers group,  my patients, various folk who live in my house. The dog. The latter is the best critic.
Book 7 features someone in a coma.  I’ve never been in a coma thankfully  but was chatting away to a patient who told me her son in law was in a coma for  four months. She told me a lot. Stuff you don’t get from having a medical degree. 
One weird thing was that when he ‘woke up’ he knew what they had been talking about over his bed. Not specific memory but an osmosis of the daily detritus of the conversation.  Mainly, the stress had caused his wife to go back on the ciggies. His mum had lost lots of weight through the stress.  The cat had kittens and all found good homes. And somebody was scoffing all the polo mints. (That was the wife disguising the fact she was smoking) .
Know when to stop.
Maybe writers like PD don’t get a word count to  stick to but it does concentrate the mind somewhat.  My new publisher likes shorter books, so I’ve had to edit and cut and trim. I think it has worked. I hope it has.

I had ‘blog’ on my to do list, ( I have a special note book for my To Do list) I can score that off now and phone the builder. It’s going to snow tomorrow, it will snow through the hole in the roof.
But first I’ll take the dog out, there’s a bit of dialogue I’m struggling with where the James Bond type character has driven over an attack toddler in a lawn mower and Mr T ain’t chuffed!