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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

A poem for St David’s Day by Marc Mordey

My Angels were Singing – a poem for St David’s Day by Marc Mordey

 I stood near the house

where Grace once lived,

My angels were singing.

I watched as birds

and daffodils dived.

My angels were singing.

It’s spring and the sun

bursts fat and alive.

And my angels were singing.

Old crow, silhouetted against Carningli rock,

purple shadowed on blackened burnt bracken,

gorse and heather reeling :

the after shock.

But my angels were singing, still.

As seagulls wheeled across the bay,

catching sea breezes,

tumbling at will.

The Irish Sea lies beneath

becalmed and silvered blue,

and my angels were singing.

Wales’ favourite saint remembered

the new season breaks forth, springing,

flowers dancing, church bells – ringing.

His angels – singing.

Seasons, people, live and die,

here and now is for the living.

But remember those you love or loved –

do try.

And let your angels be singing.

Let your angels be singing.

Words are like local shops

Words are like local shops – it’s a case of use them or lose them. I was shocked to hear that ‘charabanc’ and ‘aerodrome’ have been expunged from the Oxford English Dictionary. But how can that be, when there is a sign for Haverfordwest Aerodrome just down the road from here? And last summer Marc and I went with a couple of friends on what can only be called a charabanc, a (hilarious) local coach trip to the Brecon canal. 

But clearly we didn’t use charabanc or aerodrome enough so both those have gone and the problem is that once they have gone, however much we suddenly realise we loved them, we can’t easily get them back. 

The people behind the  ‘shop local’ organisation are trying to promote local shops and businesses, maybe we should have a similar campaign for words. Some kind of system of encouraging people to use our favourites in order to keep them alive. Louis de Bernières suggests that it’s a good idea to scour the dictionary and to put a couple of pretty obscure words into the first few pages of a novel as it sets a good tone. (I have just scoured his book Birds Without Wings, a wonderful engrossing read, and quickly found ‘kaval’, ‘mendicant’ and ‘Circassian’!) But finding underused words in books and magazines from time to time isn’t enough, we have to use them day to day. I hardly dare say it, but we need to spread the word! 

Some years ago I went through a period of having to go to some pretty dull cocktail parties, and to make it less of an ordeal my partner and I selected a couple of words before going in that we would try to bring casually into the conversation. We gave each other points for how successful we were. I scored particularly well I seem to remember for an inspired combined use of ‘intransigent’ and ‘giraffe’. 

In memory of that success I have decided to start my own ‘use them or lose them’ campaign by introducing some of my favourites into my blog, my tweets and possibly even my day to day chit chat. I am starting with ‘equanimity’ and ‘detritus’- two of my favourite underachievers. So, unless you are able to accept the demise of your words/local village shops with equanimity, I suggest you start using them, otherwise they will become part of the inevitable detritus of globalisation!

Romantic novels to cry for …

Everywhere I go at the moment there are hearts and roses.  Love is in the air and we might as well enjoy it.  Some of us are lucky enough to have our own Valentine waiting for us at home (!) but whether we have or not, reading a romantic novel is another great way to celebrate …

As an author I am often asked about my favourite books and whether they have influenced my writing.  I have always been an avid (and eclectic) reader. My reading has definitely influenced not only what I write about, but also how I write it. I might add here how amazed I often am when I talk to other writers (especially wannabe writers) and discover how little they read.

I’m convinced that analysing how successful authors structure their stories, how they create characters and achieve that all important ‘page turning power’ is the best training a writer can have.  ‘But I get far too engrossed in novels to stop and analyse them,’ people say. But of course it is exactly those extra-engrossing novels that we should be learning from – so read them again! Certainly all the novels on my favourite romantic reads list below are ones I have read at least twice. 

Stone Virgin by Barry Unsworth – a very clever, beautifully written, literary novel set in Venice in three different periods of history.

The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif – a sweeping desert adventure set in North Africa, wonderful writing and compelling story.

Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough – the big Australian saga about impossible love. Choose this for a long and engrossing read.

Eightsome Reel by Magda Sweetland – an intensely emotional sweeping Scottish love story.

The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye – a hugely satisfying historical saga set in 19th Century India, amazing sense of time and place.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer – a Regency romance with humour, elegance and style, one of her best.

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller – if you are short of time, read this and weep! 

My own books all have elements of romance in them too, Some Sunny Day is probably the most emotional of the war series. The Art of Loving is specifically designed to make you laugh and cry. And of course Slick Deals contains the enigmatically sexy Nick Jardine!  


Welcome to Helen Carey’s blog

Hello, welcome to my blog,

I am a published author (see my book page above), an avid reader, and I occasionally teach creative writing at university level. In the past I have also worked as a reader for a couple of publishers and a literary agent.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, just click the ‘Sign up by email’ or ‘RSS’ box on the right, I only post once or twice a month so you won’t be inundated and you can unsubscribe at any time.

I hope you are all staying safe and coping with the lock down. Please feel free to get in touch if I can answer any writing or reading questions.

With all best wishes, Stay safe.


Is romance on the rise?

Over the last couple of years there has been a significant rise in sales of romantic novels. For a while the industry was puzzled, but gradually the reason has become clear. With the advent of Kindles and other eReaders people have suddenly found themselves able to read romantic fiction without detection. Gone are the days when you had to conceal your Mills&Boon in the pages of War and Peace in case your boss caught you reading in your lunch break. Now you can upload romances to your heart’s content (as long as you also have The Catcher in the Rye handy to flip over to when someone asks what you are reading!) and eRomance sales have consequently boomed. 

So why are we so shy about our love of romantic fiction? Perhaps it is partly because the so called trashy romances gave the genre a bad name. But there’s also plenty of badly written crime fiction around and that hasn’t given the crime genre a bad name. Of course the British literati have turned their noses up at romance for years, often refusing even to acknowledge it as an important element in the popularity of certain ‘literary’ novels. Runaway bestsellers such as Birdsong and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin are praised by literary critics for the quality of the writing, the historical accuracy and powerful characterisation, but very few praise them for including a cracking love story! 

And why shouldn’t we relish a good romantic read? They are just as difficult to write. What is any novel after all but a means to escape the real world and lose ourselves in an exploration of make-believe, whether it be cliff top chases, gun battles, gruesome murders, ancient history, psychology, fantasy, science fiction or human relationships? Whether we like to admit it or not, romance, in one form or another, plays a huge part in our lives. We are emotional beings and it’s not surprising that we seek out novels that allow us to explore our feelings and fantasies. What is more surprising is that we still feel the need to have The Catcher in the Rye on standby! 

In my next blog I will outline some of my all time favourite romantic reads, but in the meantime, especially as Valentine’s Day is approaching, I encourage you to take your courage in your hands and lose yourself in a romantic novel.

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