Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year to All in Blogland!!!!


No, I still don't believe it - I know I keep saying this, but it can't be the end of 2009, let alone the end of the "noughties", can it? It doesn't seem five minutes ago that we were doing the New Millennium stuff - remember having to stock the cupboards with enough food to last a lifetime and waiting for your computer to crash forever because civilization as we knew it was going to come to an end at midnight on New Year's Eve 1999? How can that be 10 years ago???

But it was, and here we are, somehow just about to go into Twenty-Ten. I hope it's happy and peaceful and brings you everything you need/want/hope for. I'm not big on resolutions (never manage to keep them, then always feel guilty and even more of a failure), but I do always feel sort of energised at this time of the year. I've got my new (Jersey) calendar ready to put on the wall in front of the desk and my new diary (really pretty - pink with hippie flowers) poised by the keyboard, and a list of writing projects in my pristine Pukka Pad to tackle once Midnight Feast - er, The Way To A Woman's Heart - is finished, waiting beside the computer. Today I'm itching to get on with writing again, and can only hope the itch lasts longer than my erstwhile resolutions...

2009, against all the odds, has been a lovely year for me. After a dire and dreadful 2008 I held out no hopes at all, but what with Elle and The Doctor's wonderful wedding (and subsequent blissfully happy marriage), and The Toyboy Trucker's exam successes and promotion (I still miss the jeans and T-shirt and boots and heady whiff of diesel though...) and the fun of making the Writers Bureau telly advert, and getting a new two-book deal with Piatkus, and my books selling so well in Germany and therefore giving me a regular income, and none of the cats dying - what more could I ask for? We're happy and healthy. We've got a cosy, comfortable home, enough food to eat, loads of great friends, no real worries, and an okay future. I know I'm lucky. Very. If 2010 is half as good I'll be delighted.

So, no resolutions - but a real intention to write, write, write in 2010 - and keep writing. Because I'm lucky there, too. I'm published. It was my hopeless dream for so long that I'll never, ever take it for granted.

Enough of the sentimental waffling then - just want to say a huge thank you to all my blogland friends for being brilliant - and again, whatever you want in 2010 I hope you achieve it with bells and whistles and fireworks and fanfares of celestial trumpets. I'll raise a glass of fizz to you all at midnight as me and The Toyboy Trucker scamper around the terrace with Shaz and Dave, Nikki and Memphis, Vee and the kids, Wilf, Maudie and Jerome, and Nancy - and wish you everything that you wish yourselves.

Oh, yes - and there's just one more little selfish wish - MOONSHINE is published three weeks today and I really, really hope that people buy it and read it, and more importantly, like it - because I do...

Happy New Year - and THANK YOU!!!!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Winter Wonderland



I hope everyone had a magical Christmas. I was going to post about mine but decided other people's Christmases (much like other people's children) are interesting only to those closely involved. Suffice it to say, it was great - way, way better than last year's when I was skint (through not reading my contract), as this year I'd done the (unusual for me) b-thing and Budgeted!


Elle and The Doctor were here, the outlaws weren't, friends came from all over the place - and we had a lovely, lovely time. And that's about as much as I feel I should bore you with. So, for this post-Christmas pre-New Year blog I thought I'd post some pretty festive pics of last week's wonderfully seasonal weather instead...

It does go to prove that a heavy snowfall can transform even the most mundane landscape into something completely sublime. Our estate (council) and the terrace (basic) and the green (pretty but functional) were suddenly turned into images of Larkrise-to-Cranford-cum-Disney-via-every-Dickensian-Christmas-card-scene ever published... I took all these from our house in a state of childish excitement (not a new emotion for me, I must admit) at the sight of Proper Snow.

Fortunately The Toyboy Trucker eventually arrived home late on Christmas Eve after two weeks away battling through the ice, snowdrifts, and disgruntled unfestive customers who'd ordered their Christmas presents on t'internet and expected them to arrive the same way - i.e. through the ether without the interference of lots of Real People, Real Vehicles, and Diabolical Weather Conditions. When he got here it was like one of those heartwarming 1940s films with Daddy making it home just in time for Christmas... it was really romantic and old-fashioned and just - well - lovely...





And now, according to the weather forecast, we're going to have a snowy, arctic re-run for the New Year. Great for me being snug and warm and happily typing. Great for the cats all snug and warm and hogging the radiators/fires/beds. Not so great for The Toyboy Trucker and everyone else out there working to keep the country ticking over. Thinking of you - you're all stars.

Oh, and here's to an amazing, safe, happy, successful and peaceful 2010 - just in case I don't blog again in 2009 (no sorry - still can't believe it's over - where did it go???)

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Strange...


This year (and where did it go??? How can it be nearly Christmas already???) my writing has been a bit - well - sluggish. I seem to have spent half the year completing, editing, copy editing, proof-reading Moonshine - and the remainder writing Midnight Feast (okay, The Way To A Woman's Heart) which is nearly finished now and is going okay and I still like it. But there's been no ooomph. No fizzing of new ideas. No exciting new plots fighting to be heard. No avalanche of brilliant stories simply itching to see the light of day or computer screen. Just a sort of becalmed, day-to-day "must get this finished" sort of doldrummy feeling. Until now.

Now, out of the blue, I've got more ideas than I know what to do with. How weird is that? Goodness knows if they're any good - but where on earth did they come from? Suddenly I've got the titles and opening paragraphs for a dozen short stories (and to my shame, I haven't written ONE short story this year), the next novel in the Hazy Hassocks series has sort of popped, fully-formed, into my head when I least expected it to, two more are buzzing about, and even more odd - I've suddenly got an idea for an entire new series for a genre of novels (Young Adult) that I've never even thought about before.

I've had weeks - nay months - this year when I'd have killed for one original idea, just a single even vaguely interesting new plotline. Weeks and weeks when I've sat and doodled and given myself brain-ache (and a feeling of palm-sweating terror) wondering if this was the end of the creative road. And let's face it, if I don't make my living from writing we're doomed to the eternal breadline because I'm definitely unemployable. Now for some unknown reason, I don't know which novel and/or short story to start on next - well, when TWTAWH is finished and delivered at least.

This has NEVER happened to me before. I've never been one of those writers who claims they'll be dead before they've written all the stonking novels they've got planned. Never had more ideas than I know what to do with. Never ecstatically started A New Book within a nano-second of the last one leaving the computer. For me, each book or short story becomes more difficult to write because I'm so sure it's all been done/said/written before - and probably much, much better...

Of course, being realistic, half these ideas are probably rubbish and will possibly never develop into anything saleable - but oooh, it's so lovely to have them. It's like going back to the early days of being a writer when everything was all shiny and new and my enthusiasm knew no bounds. Back to the days of being all starry-eyed about being published - and I LOVE it!

Friday, 27 November 2009

That's The Way To Do It


Well - I've just come back from a book signing session. At The Bookstore. In our little market town. And there were thousands of people there. Thousands - honestly. Before I'd even crossed the road to head for the precinct, someone said "I shouldn't bother, duck - they'm queuing, six deep, way past Nat West..."

And they were. I've never seen so many people in one place in my entire life - well, apart from football matches and rock concerts of course - but for a book signing in the indie Bookstore, in our tiny, tiny town...

Sadly, they weren't queuing for an early signed copy of Moonshine. No, they were there for Terry Wogan. And so was I.

What a coup for The Bookstore! Sir Tel - in person.

As The Toyboy Trucker is also a huge fan I joined the throng, prepared to wait for hours to get the hallowed signature for one of his Christmas presents. And it was one heck of a wait - TOGS, TYGS and all those in-between were determined to see TW no matter how long it took. Terry had dragged out a huge cross-section of the community (some of whom possibly haven't seen the light of day since 1955) but I was surprised that it wasn't just one huge beige army - no way. There were also schoolchildren, and dreadlocks, and suits-and-boots, and young mums and well, everyone...

Eventually I made it to the front of the queue, shared a few nervously giggled words with "the veteran broadcaster", had the book suitably inscribed, and, completely star-struck, skipped out into the still-crowded precinct. Oh, but what a lovely man. Truly. Everyone was treated as an individual, he had time to listen and chat and laugh and be photographed, and no lengthy inscription was too much trouble.

Terry Wogan is a true gentleman. Warm, polite, amusing, unassuming, genuinely interested in everyone and everything. When Jane and Ian at The Bookstore said that his allotted hour was up but the crowd was still weaving its way out of sight, he said it didn't matter, he was staying until the queue was gone. And he did. For hours and hours.

What a star! So many of today's so-called celebs could learn so much from him. No histrionics, no demands, no hint of self-importance - just well-mannered, old-fashioned friendliness, dignity and decency.

I love Terry Wogan!!!

But - oooh, if only my next book signing ( Moonshine - January 16th 2010 - sorry, gratuitous self-promo moment!) in The Bookstore could be a millionth as well-attended....

Friday, 20 November 2009

Loves Me, Loves Me Not


This week (the shingles having mercifully abated) I've been to the swish launch party for LOVES ME, LOVES ME NOT. This lovely book is an anthology of romantic short stories of every hue, from historical to hysterical, written by members of the Romantic Novelists Association, and published to celebrate the RNA's Golden Anniversary next year.

It was quite amazing to be in the same room (and what a room!) as so many famous faces! My less-than-famous-face can be spotted here in the official photo in the back row right-hand corner just to the left of the painting, sandwiched somewhere between, and breathing the same air as, such literary luminaries as Joanna Trollope on one side and Carole Matthews and Adele Parkes on the other. How cool is that? I'm holding a glass and grinning. As per... And laughing with the fabulous Jan Jones with whom I not only share a name and a writing past but practically everything else.

It was a wonderful party. Held in the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly - truly sumptuous surroundings - it was glamour and luxury personified. As I don't get out much I was practically beside myself with excitement. My plus-one was Em-next-door-as-was because The Toyboy Trucker was away working in Crewe or Cleethorpes or Croydon or somewhere exotic like that. Em and I had a whale of a time (not to mention quails eggs - a first for me) and it was so lovely to meet up with old RNA friends and chatter to new ones. The chattering may have been a bit off the wall as I'd had several glasses of wine - and for this, and ignoring people - especially Nell who I didn't say anything sensible to at all until the last minute scramble for taxis-to-the-station, I apologise...



Loves Me, Loves Me Not contains over 40 original short stories by members of the Romantic Novelists Association and proves what a diverse lot we are, and even more so, what a broad church "romantic fiction" really is. I'm so proud to have a story included - mine's called The Wrong Trousers and is, hopefully, funny. I wanted to write something to show that falling head-over-heels in love is not simply for the young, rich, beautiful and perfectly-formed. I even managed to get a mention of magic knickers in there without falling foul of the editors (thanks, Sue and Jan!) - a subject close to my heart (well, more my nether regions) on the night as I was very brave and wore a frock and yep, magic knickers. My frock (Tesco and very low-cut so to prevent a wardrobe malfunction I stiched up the gaping cleavage on the train and managed to attach it to my bra and my skin) was purple, as were my tights and my lovely, lovely long suede boots (Primark) and I wore my trophy necklace made up of purple Fender plectrums - a throw-back to my mis-spent yoof when I collected bass guitarists...

And now it's all over and I'm back at "work" on Midnight Feast (yes, I know it's now officially called The Way To A Woman's Heart but it still says Midnight Feast on my computer files and that's how it'll stay in my heart and my head for the time being) and the frock and boots are back in the wardrobe and the magic knickers are in the washing basket and my fifteen minutes of glamour and fame are simply a lovely memory... Sigh....

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Sssshhhhh....


That's not sssshhhhh as in library-speak (sorry Karen - I know that's a cliche) or sssshhhhh as in a truncated expletive - nooo, it's sssshhhhh as in shingles - because I've got 'em.

Ooooh... Now I feel really, really old - even though everyone assures me that you can get shingles at any age, it still sounds like An Old Person's Thing to me...

And I didn't even know. I assumed the flu-ish feelings and the pain I've had for the last couple of weeks in my neck, shoulder and back was a combination of a bit of a cold and a pulled muscle. Okay, I was feeling a bit woozy and the pain was a funny tingly burning sensation - but even so... Then my shoulder and neck and back started hurting a lot. And I itched - and I scratched - and that hurt even more.

Now I don't know about you, but I never really look at my back - it's a sort of no go area. I can't see it much to be truthful, even if I wanted to, even in the mirror, so I couldn't see what was going on - just feel it. Anyway, as the pain hadn't gone away I thought maybe it was Something Awful the way you do (or is that just me?). So, I made the hideous mistake of typing my symptoms into NHS Direct....

Dear God - no matter which computation of yes/no answers I put in it came up with the big screamy page telling me to dial 999 for an emergency ambulance.

As a semi-reformed hypochondriac I was in a state of terror but managed to keep a grip long enough to ring NHS Direct and speak to a real person - just to make sure -before filling the house with paramedics. After answering loads of questions I'm sorry to say that I collapsed in giggles over "are your lips blue?" - well, only when I've been eating licorice - and "can you swallow your own spit?" - yes, they said spit not saliva - and do you know, it's something I've never thought about, but once I'd started thinking about it I found I couldn't and got quite agitated... Not quite as agitated as the poor NHS Direct person who frostily suggested I should see my GP.

Actually, that's not the greatest thing to suggest to me as my last visit to the doctor's surgery (when I had Urticarial Angiodema with Vasculitus - I know! Fancy - huh?) resulted in the receptionist helpfully suggesting that I might be allergic to mangoes and the last person they'd had with a mango allergy had been dead within 20 minutes.

Anyway, I went - and yep, I've got shingles. Mild, apparently, but shingles never-the-less. And because my pustules haven't yet crusted over (sorry - possibly far too much gross information) I'm still infectious and therefore have to stay away from normal people.

This is a bit of a bugger as I'm supposed to be in London today having a lovely celebratory lunch with my editor and agent to talk about publicity for Moonshine and toast the signing of a new two book deal. (Yippeeee!) And I was SO looking forward to it. I'd bought new shoes. With sparkles on them. I am SO miffed now as I sit here, typing and wincing and scratching - and not being feted in a swish eatery.

Hopefully I'll be crusty enough to attend the launch party for the Romantic Novelists Association's Golden Anniversary short story anthology - Loves Me Loves Me Not (buy it! It's brill!)- next Wednesday. If not, then I'll really have to spit...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day


Really no need for words. Just the picture and thoughts. Remembrance Day seems even more poignant today somehow. War is no longer something sadly remembered by the older generation. It's now horribly real for everyone. We're on the flight path for both RAF Brize Norton (where the bodies of the servicemen lost in Iraq were repatriated) and RAF Lyneham (where the Afghan dead are now flown) and the sight and sound of those low-flying Hercules on their heart-breaking mission is truly harrowing.

I held my own two minute silence at 11 just now - in the garden - and it was made even more poignant by the nearby army base sounding the eerie WW11 air-raid siren, and the local infant school getting all the children into the playground, and their excited laughter dying away on the first stroke of eleven o'clock until all I could hear was - nothing. Absolute silence. Very, very moving.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Firework Wedding and Strange Shopping


Happy Anniversary to The Toyboy Trucker (and me)! Still think it was a lovely sparkly colourful noisy day to get married - and we're going for the annual full communal village green firework, fish and chips and champagne anniversary party tonight. Can't wait!

The Toyboy Trucker brought me a cup of tea in bed this morning, along with a card and a shopful of flowers. It was wonderful - even if it was 5a.m. Luckily I'd bought him a card this year too - and the words in both were identical - romantic not sloppy or funny - which we reckon shows we're still on the same wavelength even after all these years. And they said it wouldn't last! Honestly - most people gave us six months at the most. Hah and ya-boo-sucks to them! I bought him chocolates. Elle and The Doctor gave us a pantechnicon-load of fancy doughnuts for tonight's party. We had to test-drive them though - even at 5a.m.... Fantastic!

While I was buying the chocolates yesterday (in Thorntons - there's posh!) - the customer in front of me was having a message iced on to her chocolate thingy (not sure what it was meant to be). She wanted "Keep Smiling". The assistant carefully manoeuvred her icing bag with a steady hand and eventually held up the result. I shook my head. It said "Keep Smileing". I pointed out the mis-spelling - and after much argument with two other assistants and three customers, the offending icing was scraped off and a second attempt was made. This time it said "Keep Smilling". There was a further prolonged argument and a lot of huffing and puffing before the third attempt passed muster. After the customer had left happily clutching her correctly-spelt confectionery the assistant suggested, a touch tersely, that it would have been far more economical for the shop if I'd just kept my mouth shut...

And then, even worse, in the card shop, while browsing through umpteen anniversary cards and discarding the ones with pipes and slippers or cartoon pictures of pneumatic blondes, they started playing smooth, chill-out background music. Unfortunately, it was Cavatina - the theme from The Deer Hunter - which is a total no-no for me. It holds such heart-breaking memories that I'm always reduced to a soggy, sobbing, heaving wreck within seconds... This is Not A Good Thing in a small shop crowded with pensioners punching their way through the "350 Christmas Cards For £2.50" section. With tears pouring down my face, and hiccuping back howls, I dropped the card I'd chosen and forced my way through the throng into the street. Not-too-hushed hisses of "...she'm drunk!" and "...shoplifting, you mark my words..." and "...they're all doo-lally up on 'er estate..." followed me. Ooooh, the humiliation...

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween


I love Halloween. I always loved it when I was little, before it became commercial, and my mum would make cut-out witches and black cats to dangle round the house and we'd have tea by candlelight and my dad would tell really scary ghost stories. This was possibly because both my nans tended towards witchcraft anyway, so it seemed quite normal. It would probably be classed as child abuse today... I'm not sure that I love today's updated and far more sinister Trick or Treat - but we do have a bowl of cheap and nasty sweets ready for tonight's onslaught by the yoof of the estate. The Toyboy Trucker is hoping tonight's forecasted heavy rain will keep the yoof of the estate indoors so that he can chomp his way through the crud while watching Match of the Day.

It's also Dexter's birthday today. He's two. He was named after the psychopathic, amoral serial killer of the telly series because - well - he is a psychopathic, amoral serial killer... He's also cute. Very. And as he was dumped in mid-November at a few weeks old when we found him we guessed his birthday must have been around now and Halloween seems a very suitable birthdate for him. Happy birthday Dexter!

And the rest of the non-writing non-Halloween weekend will be spent clearing out the last remnants of the living room ready for the tarting up process to begin on Monday. Gulp....

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Parish Notices


A very brief blog post to pass on info... (oh, and a trillion years ago I used to live in the village in the pic)

First, an impassioned plea from the lovely Lynne Hackles who is trying to sell her house and is cleverly using the web/blog network to spread the word. Anyone who might be interested in moving to/in Wales (or who knows anyone who might be interested) please take a look at Lynne's website (fabulously glam photo, Lynne!) www.lynnehackles.com where there are some gorgeous pictures (it's stunningly beautiful and original and extremely reasonably priced - am sorely tempted myself!) of the house and a detailed description of all the rooms and the glorious surrounding area.

Secondly, I've got two new online interviews up and running - both on sites which will be of interest to new writers and old hands alike. They're at www.newbiewriters.com and www.novelkicks.co.uk.

Thirdly, the renovating of the lean-to is finished. It is now officially A Sun Room. When we bought the house it was described (in estate agent speak) as a conservatory. It isn't and never was. Over the years it's become a general glory hole/cat sanctuary/garden store. It's now beautiful and painted and wood panelled and carpeted and has furniture in it!!! We shall be opening it to the public in the spring...

Fourthly - I've gone mad - madder? - (after hating the new dining room - mind you, I'm much happier now it's got *stuff* in it and looks like home) and am allowing the living room to be tarted up next week. I know I'll HATE it to start with - especially as we're going for a radical change from navy blue and gold to burgundy and cream... gulp...

Fifthly, I have a Christmas deadline for Midnight Feast (now called The Way To A Woman's Heart according to Amazon - I always find it really scary when a novel I'm still writing, and especially when I'm wallowing in the muddly middle, appears on Amazon as a Real Book That People Can Order!!! - so it clearly wasn't just Sunny Strange or my house that had to have a makeover) and now I've really, really got to get a move on and finish it - and it only seems five minutes ago that I was saying the very same thing about Moonshine...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Killing Two Birds...


The two birds of the subject line are Facebook and Names. Firstly, Facebook - well - I've gorn all technical (with a lot of help from the lovely alzamina - thank you so much!) in my newly-found self-promo-ing zeal and added a CJ Fan Page to my normal Facebook page - hence the rather odd link-widget-thingy (see how quickly I've picked up the appropriate jargon?) on the right. And I'd really, really appreciate it if someone would click the "become a fan" button otherwise it'll look really sad...

And the second bird - names... Well, it's just that my friend has named her new daughter Sukie Lulu after two of my heroines - which I think is lovely but I sincerely hope Sukie Lulu won't grow up to hate me, and also I've had an email from a lovely lady who tells me her three sons are all named after my heroes - Drew, Rory and Ellis - which is again very flattering and probably a lot more acceptable...

But it does mean in future I'm going to have to be very, very careful about "christening" my H&H just in case some poor newborn gets lumbered with something I think is sweet now but they'll hate like poison when they get to 25... Elle, bless her, was near as dammit called Poppy Star. She is SO glad I saw sense...

And funnily enough, while on the name thing, the heroine in Midnight Feast has also had to have a bit of a name make-over. I'd called her Sunny Strange because she is both of those things - but this was considered just a bit too - er - goofy - so she's now Ella Maloney. It took me ages to get used to it - plus I did "find and replace" and therefore now have loads of things like "it was a lovely Ella morning" and "there was a Maloney atmosphere" splattered right through my carefully crafted and beautifully honed 75,000 so far and counting words. Sigh...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Happy Diwali!


Today is Diwali - the Hindu Festival of Light - and I'm that excited! I'm just off - with the Toyboy Trucker, Elle, The Doctor and his family - to celebrate it in style for the first time. As it involves sweets, lights, candles, and fireworks - I'm in my element.

We're going to the Hindu Temple first, then off to Wembley for the lights procession followed by fireworks, rounding it all off with a celebratory Indian banquet. I've got an Indian silk tunic (multi-coloured) to wear plus some sparkly shoes (naff but lovely) and masses of bling. I think I probably look like a fat Christmas tree but I don't care.

Sooo - sweets, sparkly, twinkly lights, glittery candles, loads of fireworks, masses and masses of colour and FOOD - oooh - I can't wait...

Happy Diwali to everyone (oh, and next year Diwali is on November 5th which is our wedding anniversary - so how good will that one be???).

Monday, 5 October 2009

Birthday, Debs and Other Stuff


Last week I was taken away for a Long Birthday Weekend. To Jersey. In a beach hotel. With sea-view and balcony. And The Toyboy Trucker arranged for me to have my birthday breakfast on the beach terrace in the (really hot) sun with the sea - brilliantly blue and sparkling - only feet away, and he gave me a fabulous new engagement ring to replace the old one which had worn thin and fallen apart and has been glued together and is on a chain round my neck. It was SO romantic. And I cried. A lot.

We spent the Day Before My Birthday at El Tico's (pictured above) with the beautiful Debs and her lovely R and the gorgeous world-famous Grumpy. It was fantastic. We had a really, really l-o-n-g lazy laughing lunch in the sun and it was wonderful to chat for ages face-to-face instead of simply through the ether. The weather was amazing (like Karen I've got a burnt chest and am proud of it!) and I could have stayed there forever with D, R and G, gazing out across stunning St Ouens Bay and being lazy... It was so nice to be at El Tico's again and I love the way it's been lovingly restored without losing any of its original 1930s feel - oh, and the food was wonderful - as was the champagne! Thanks Debs - I'll remember it forever!

I do love St Ouens. When I lived in Jersey I worked (among other things) as a waitress at Le Braye (pictured below) just along the road from El Tico's and was sacked for releasing the freshly-caught lobsters each morning. They lived in a tin bath at the back of the cafe and were served fresh (i.e. alive - well, at least, not alive on the plate of course, but boiled to order) and I became a one-girlie-lobster-liberation-squad. It took the then-owners weeks to discover who was pinching the makings of their lobster salads... We sometimes go back now (I think it's safe to do so after many, many years) and have lunch at Le Braye and joyously there's not a lobster on the menu these days!


Now I'm back home and it's cold and grey and raining a bit. And I'm trying to write Midnight Feast but keep drifting off to Jersey in my head...

Fortunately I'm falling in love with the dining room now. Having taken all your advice, I've incorporated some old bits, added some new ones, and there's lots of colour splashed about. It still looks a bit clean and neat for me, but it's beginning to feel like home. And the table (the only old thing I couldn't fit into the shed) has a lovely new home at our local British Legion - so I think my Gran wouldn't have minded that at all...

Elle and The Doctor, having JUST got their wedding photos back (oooh, there may yet be a pic of the elusive m-o-t-b frock!), are on holiday in Vegas at the moment. The Toyboy Trucker and I are baby-sitting their newest acquisitions - four goldfish called Lambert&Butler and Benson&Hedges... (this we feel is Not A Good Thing for health professionals). The cats are very excited...

And we have new neighbours. At last. Will give their arrival a blog post of its own. I hope they'll cope with life in the terrace. They seem very nice and scarily normal.

I met Wilf-next-door this morning, he looked very smart and a bit glum, and said he'd just come back from a funeral. I made all the appropriate noises and he said "ah, but she asked for it. Smoking related, it was. She was a heavy smoker. Silly girl." I winced (yes, I smoke) in terror and vowed to give up (again) and murmured about that being very sad and asked how old she was (praying that she wasn't anywhere near my age or - God forbid - younger)and Wilf shook his head and said "bless 'er, she were only ninety seven...". I skipped all the way home and lit a fag by way of celebration.

Oh, and my Writers Bureau ad has been seen on the telly by lots of people - but not by me. However, it is on YouTube now - and (if you want to see the result of my fab time in Manchester) I think this link below works if you cut and paste it...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK_CQvwGHwI
well, it did for me. Elle thought it was weird to see me with dead straight hair and a lot of slap and looking a bit "stiff", but she also thought I looked "quite thin if a bit wrinkly". There's a compliment in there somewhere - I think...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

I'm Not Normal - Official


The decorating is done. Normality (or what passes for it in this house) reigns. The tidying up is done, the fripperies are in place in the newly-tarted-up dining room. The dining room was cluttered and old-fashioned. It was painted sunshine yellow with lots of dark green and terracotta bits. It was jumbled with old furniture (Elle always called it The Dead People's Room because everything had belonged to someone else) and piles and heaps and cascades of mementos and shelves and shelves of nick-nacks. It was, according to most people, a hell hole health hazard.

Now it's cream. And white. And silver. And tidy and neat and uncluttered and has NEW furniture and looks like other people's dining rooms. Em-Next-Door-As-Was's brother did the decorating business. Brilliantly. It's a spectacularly professional job which has brought oohs and aahs of appreciation from everyone.

And I hate it.

See - I'm not normal...

It's not my dining room any more. It's perfect. Beautiful. It's pale and minimalist and spotlessly clean and uncluttered. It's like something out of a catalogue. It scares me rigid. I tiptoe in in the mornings to pull the curtains (very carefully because they're cream silk - oh God! I knew I should have read the label - and show every mark) and feel like I've stumbled into someone else's life. The cats, who loved to snuggle up against the radiators and lined the window sills to watch the world go by, hover in the doorway then run away.

The Toyboy Trucker, Elle and The Doctor all think it's amazing. There's talk of doing up the rest of the house to match. Lordy! Over my dead body. I'm a messy person. I love colour and crap and everything on show. I'm useless at cleaning and tidying (never have the time to do it properly) and I love cluttered and cosy. The dining room is one thing - the rest of the house? No bloody way!

And I cried when I had to chuck out the crumbling, dirty, useless stuff. Cried! It was like losing old friends. Okay, the dining room table and chairs and bookcases belonged to my Gran (and she didn't get them new) and were falling apart, and the chiffonier was eaten with woodworm and leaned backwards because the legs had disintegrated, but they'd belonged to my childhood and I loved them. The new stuff is smart, practical, lovely - and soulless...

Yes, it was my idea to "do" the dining room. No-one forced me into it. I was really enthusiastic to start with. But now I just want the old room back again. The Toyboy Trucker says I'll soon get used to it and love it - but I'm not holding my breath...

Monday, 7 September 2009

For Karen


This is possibly gross misuse of a blog - but I've just done something stupid. No? Really??? Yep. You see, I've just had a lovely email from someone called Karen (who says she's reads the blog)and I was going to reply to it and instead of hitting the reply button I hit delete - and it's gorn!!! Forever! And I can't remember anything else other than your first name and I'd hate you to think that I've ignored you - so PLEASE Karen if you read this can you email me again. My only excuse is that we're being decorated (at last!!!) and the computer is perched on the landing (which is the only safe and non-disrupted place in the house) and it's a bit gloomy... Do hope you'll see this and send me the email again....

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Oh Dear


Dear Blog, I'm really sorry I've been ignoring you recently - but I've been really BUSY writing. Well, no that's not strictly true - I've been a BIT busy writing (Midnight Feast) but I've also been away. Yes - again! Don't nag. The Toyboy Trucker and I snook away for a few days, okay? And that's why I'm posting this and why you've got a Proper Literary Person as an illustration today. All will be revealed, promise...
love, Chris xxxx

This is cross-my-heart true:-

While on hols last week and browsing (i.e. rearranging my books face-out in front of other people's who don't need the royalties as much as I do) in a bookshop I witnessed the following...

Bookseller (wearing bookseller badge) deep in conversation with junior assistant (wearing bookselling assistant badge) about the merits of Katie Price's "Sapphire" which was currently splashed in its dozens over three shelves of "Number One Best-Seller" was interrupted by a middle-aged female customer.

Customer: Excuse me, where can I find Somerset Maugham?
Bookseller: Somerset Morn? Sorry, never heard of it. Who's it by?
Customer: It's not a title. It's an author.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: What's she written?
Customer: He's a man.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: What's he written?
Customer: Lots of things. Cakes and Ale? The Painted Veil? The Moon and Sixpence?
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: Which one are you looking for?
Customer: Of Human Bondage.
Bookselling Assistant: Have you tried Erotica?
Customer: No. Doesn't he have a section of his own?
Bookseller: Is he in the Top Fifty? Does he write crime?
Customer: No, his books are classics.
Bookselling Assistant: Ah, classics. Like Dickens? We've got some Dickens classics - and lots of Jane Austen.
Customer: More recent than them, but yes, maybe in the same area.
Bookseller: No, I don't think so. How are you spelling Morn?
Customer: M-a-u-g-h-a-m.
Bookselling Assistant: Oh.
Bookseller: That's a funny spelling. I've never heard of him.
Customer: But do you have any of his books?
Bookselling Assistant: Not if he's not in with Dickens and Jane Austen. Do you want me to look under M in contemporary?
Customer (exiting shop looking defeated): No thank you.
Bookseller (watching her go): Have you ever heard of Somerset Morn before?
Bookselling Assistant: Nah. Can't have written much, can he?

Oh, dear......

Friday, 7 August 2009

I Wanna Be A Girlie Girl


In the late spring of 2007 I decided I was going to "go into frocks". The late spring of 2007 was HOT. I fondly imagined that months of warm summer weather stretched ahead. I also fondly imagined that I could look sweet and feminine. I'm not and never have been either of those things, and since becoming a Real Writer and thrilled to not have to wear tights-to-the-office have lived in jeans/trousers/cut-offs. Anyway, frocks were always something that looked good on Other People. I wasn't girlie enough - but that could and would change... Inspired by two things (apart from the lure of a hot summer) - Judy Astley's incredible frock wardrobe and that line in Aretha's Say A Little Prayer - "...while wondering which dress to wear..." which always conjures up such a pretty image and makes me very jealous - I bought four frocks.

The summer of 2007 was wet. Very, very wet. We were flooded for most of it. The frocks stayed in the wardrobe and I lived in jeans-tucked-into-wellies and a cagoule. However, come the following spring, thinking that the summer of 2008 had to be better, I bought another four frocks. The summer of 2008, as you may well remember, was even wetter and windier and colder. I lived in jeans-tucked-into wellies and three jumpers and a cagoule. Eight frocks now hung prettily in my wardrobe.

So, this year, three summers on, and being promised a heatwave that would split the pavements, I bought two more. And yep, all ten of them now hang in the wardrobe in all their gorgeous, colourful, floaty, floral glory. Unworn. But not unstroked. I sigh happily over them on a daily basis. And I'm still in jeans and wellies.

So? If I was the proper girlie girl I long to be, would I have worn the frocks for the last three summers regardless of the Noah/Ark/monsoon conditions? If we have a burst of late heat will I ever rescue them from the wardrobe and wear them with pride? Or is it too late for me? Have I had too many years of comfortably "dressing like a bloke" as The Toyboy Trucker once helpfully said? Will I actually feel (as I fear) like a drag queen or one of those Disney dancing hippos if I ever abandon the jeans/trousers and pull on a frock at last?

Rain is pouring from a leaden sky as I write this. We're already into August. I'm typing wearing jeans and a big sweat-shirt. The frocks, I fear, will moulder for at least another 10 months. So - maybe next summer...?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

I'm On The Telly!

.
No, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep quiet about this any longer - so here we are - no blog posts for weeks and now two in one day.... Well, at last I can come clean about what I've been doing. Huge bragging moment coming up... Last week I was on location in deepest beautiful rural and exclusive Cheshire, filming three television adverts for The Writers Bureau

Sooo - this is my face being done-over... and the end result... Hmmm - shame about the hair - but they did say to "leave it and we'll sort it out" - hmmm again...



.

It was absolutely brilliant!!!! After last year's hoo-ha with the Advertising Standards Agency (who thought I shouldn't be in the WB adverts because I wasn't a genuine ex-student - I am! - and couldn't be called a best-seller because my books, while appearing in lots of best-seller charts, had never appeared in the Sunday Times - but who have now agreed that I can be called "award-winning") and the damning mention in that article in The Times about the WB and me being a gurning non-entity - my paraphrasing by the way - I wondered if the WB would ever use me to publicise their wonderful distance learning writing course again. But they did and have - and I LOVED every minute of it.


The adverts (two 30 second ones and one 60 second) will be aired from the autumn on terrestrial and satellite TV stations as well as having a You Tube slot, and will run for at least 18 months. And of course it was fantastic reciprocal publicity as the ads will feature all my books as well as extolling the virtues of the WB course.

I've just dotted the photos about on the blog - I think they're fairly self-explanatory - and hopefully they'll give some idea of what it was like.


The film crew were amazing - especially given that I'm a giddy amateur - and were very patient and made it all wonderfully easy. And I had a proper screen make-up session and my hair was all gussied-up by the lovely Debra (an award winning make-up artist who works with Very Famous Film and Telly People), and I was wired for sound and had three scripts (and a blissfully easy auto cue!) and still managed to not be able to walk, talk, look at a book, sit down, smile, read lines and type at the same time... Duh!


We arrived at the farmhouse location (they filmed in the very pretty courtyard garden and the weather was perfect) at 10 a.m. and left again at 5.30 p.m. All that time to shoot three little adverts!!! So many takes - so many things (for me) to get wrong.... But no-one seemed to mind and we even had a proper chuck-wagon roll up for lunch time like Real Filming - and I can't remember ever laughing so much for so long.


And mindful of the fact that the camera adds POUNDS I'd crash dieted (not to be recommended) for 2 weeks beforehand and lost 14lbs in 14 days (two Slim Fast Shakes and a Weight Watchers soup - 600 cals per day) but still looked billowy on screen... Now realise that those really thin people you see on TV must be Really Really Really Thin in real life.






At the moment all the ads are being edited and cut and sliced and spliced (or whatever the technical terms are) and I've been promised that I'll get a preview as soon as they're ready - and that's going to be the really scary bit... Still, right now, I'm back home and still floating with the glamour and excitement of it all. So -a huge THANK YOU to The Writers Bureau for being brilliant hosts and friends and for giving me not only this fantastic opportunity and experience but also such a magical time Oop North - and I truly hope I didn't let you down.

Dizzy!



As is usual with me, for the past few weeks I've been running round in disorganised dizzy circles, and swearing that when I've got a spare minute I'll blog; write; answer emails; write; cut the grass; write; clear out the dining room; write; clear out the study; write; paint the living room (as in decorate - not a nice watercolour...); clear out the sheds; write.... And here we are, at the end of the third week in July (where the heck did June go? And May...?) and I haven't done very much at all.

I have written though. Midnight Feast. Not all of it - this is me we're talking about - but at the moment I'm more or less on schedule with this one and, not wanting to sound slightly grown-up or smug, it's a really nice feeling not to be panicking at the last minute. And after chapter two it took off all on its own, so I scrapped my notes/synopsis/outline and let it go its own way. Now it's definitely Cold Comfort Farm meets Masterchef, and possibly way way OTT, but I like it...

So, the Reeding at Redding (sorry - should have said all this before) went really well. Ann and Liz at the library were wonderful; we had a flatteringly nice crowd, they all asked questions I could answer and they laughed in the right places (with not at - always a bonus) - and I was taken out for a brilliant meal afterwards (a huge plus for me as I'm a pig). And I sold and signed loads of books and met some great people. The local press turned up and took photos (which I've now seen and of course now wish a) I'd stuck more rigidly to Weight Watchers and b) had my hair done...). There was a funny-peculiar moment when I'd spent ages discussing with one lady in the audience whether the River Kennet could actually run through Hazy Hassocks (as it does in my books), or whether it could flash-flood (as it does in Happy Birthday), and everyone joined in and there was quite a debate raging, then I remembered that I'd made it up and it really didn't matter about the geography because it's all fiction. I think...

And I've been on holiday - well, sort of. The Toyboy Trucker and I (after last year's disastrous financial blip) cancelled both this year's glitzy hols - and took off for a last-minute cheapo week to rediscover the bucket and spade holidays of our yoof. We toured the south coast from Sussex, through Hampshire, to Dorset, stopping off in beach huts, chalets and caravans. The weather was lovely, and so was the accommodation, but most of the places had changed (okay, we should have known they'd change but we sort of thought they wouldn't have) beyond recognition. So sad - I guess it's true that you should never go back. However, our best day of the whole week was spent at Bognor (are you laughing???). We just threw ourselves into everything wonderful about the British seaside holiday - we played in the amusement arcades (amazing how fiercely you can want a cascade of 2p pieces!!!), got very competitive at crazy golf, paddled eating ice-creams, sat on the beach with egg sandwiches and bottles of warmish lemonade, bought a lot of tat, and got sunburned. Fabulous!

Elle and The Doctor were left in charge of the cats while we were away and everyone survived. Oh, there is one rather sad bit here - it seems the official pics of me in the m-o-t-b frock may never see the light of day. (Yessss!). It's now three months since Elle and The Doctor's wedding and they still haven't got their wedding album. The photographer did his stuff, but the company he used to print and collate and produce the albums has gone into liquidation. Eeeek. Well, that's not eeek from me (the longer the m-o-t-b pics stay a secret the better as far as I'm concerned) - but it's a huge EEEK from Elle and The Doctor. The images are all safe - but are still only on disc and until a new printing/producing company is found that's where they'll stay. Phew...

Oh, and I have been doing something else as well - last week was taken up with it and it was very exciting - but it really needs a blog post of its very own, so hopefully tomorrow I'll have sorted out some photos and things and will be able to do it justice.

Now on with the gardening and writing and clearing out and answering emails and...

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tears and Laughter


Loads to say - have been on hols and will catch up with everything else asap, but this post is just a memorial to my Best Friend Forever, Pat Powell, who died suddenly 8 years ago today.

It was an equally gloriously scorching June day in 2001 and I wasn't there. I was helping ma-in-law move house and didn't know. It seems impossible that I've now lived for 8 years without Pat. It also seems impossible that my life has changed so much without her. I've had to do so many things differently. Having a Pat-less life was something I'd never even thought about. No-one prepares you for losing a best friend.

We'd been best friends since we were 16 - we did everything together, worked together, went on holiday together, saw each other all the time and spoke on the phone several times a day. Pat was my social life; she was my happiness and laughter; and the kindest, most loyal and generous person I've ever known. Today I cried for her - I still miss her so much - I've got loads of friends, really good friends who I cherish, but you only ever have one lifelong best friend - and there'll never be another Pat.

Pat and I had always decided we were going to die when we were 97 and we were going to have a joint funeral with blue and yellow flowers, lots of rock music, champagne and cream slices (our favourite indulgence). So this afternoon, on this sweltering sultry day, I've been doing what I've done each June 30th for 8 years, sitting in the garden on Pat's special seat (an ancient bench, crumbling now but I'll never part with it), listening to AC/DC, drinking (warmish) champagne and eating a (very slippery and melting)cream slice, with my Californian poppies and lobelias providing the properly-hued floral background.

I raised my glass and my cream slice to her - and now I can say again on here what I said to her just now: "I miss you every day, I think about you every day, I still expect you to walk up the path, I still wait for your phone calls, I still hear your laughter. I hope you're happy - and please, please don't be resting in peace. Please be having the best time ever with loads of fun and giggling." Then I sniffled a lot -which would have made her very cross - so I came indoors to write this as a proper memorial.

We had "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" played at her funeral - and today, for me, it's true.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Reeding At Redding


Sorry - had to do the title phonetically as "Reading at Reading" looked weird. And of course this post is far too late to be any use in a promotional way (the story of my disorganised life) but this is just a quickie to say if any friends and Bucolic Frolic readers are anywhere in the Reading (that's Redding) area tomorrow (Monday June 15th) I'm giving a reading (that's reeding) at the Central Library at 6 pm as part of their Arts Festival shindig - and I'd be thrilled to bits to see you there.

More details at http://www.readingarts.com/othervenues/whatson/event.asp?id=SXC621-A7818625 - think you can cut and paste that... (she says in her usual non-techy manner) - anyway, there are refreshments included which makes it well worthwhile in my opinion...

And, to be honest, it's not a reeding (but I still liked the reading/Reading thing so I used it in a sort of artistic licence way) - it's more a Q&A session as a) I make everything I read aloud sound like a dirge and b) I've got a bunged up nose and therefore keep sniffing and c) at least if people ask questions they might stay awake...

I'd love to see anyone who might be in Redding at 6pm (although why anyone would want to be I have no idea, as surely the shops will have shut and everyone will have gone home for their tea?) at the Central Library (in Abbey Square) because, quite frankly, if it's just me and Em-Next-Door-As-Was (she's coming along to organise me - making sure I have a clean hankie and have been to the loo etc - and to sell my books for me - hopefully) and three librarians I'll probably cry...

This is the first time Redding have invited me to do anything - and I'm really looking forward to it - and as all my books are set in Berkshire I think it indicates that they must have forgiven me for portraying the royal county as a mad place inhabited by even madder people...

Am just off now to polish up my spontaneous answers to pithy questions like "why don't you look like your photo?", "why aren't you Katie Fforde?", "do you earn as much as that Harry Potter bloke?" and "why don't you write like Jackie Collins. I likes Jackie Collins. Why don't you do sex?" - all things I've been asked more than once and really should be able to answer without sobbing by now.

And if you can't make it in person I really, really hope you'll be there in spirit as I think I'll need all the help I can get...

Friday, 5 June 2009

You Couldn't Make It Up


As the computer has been having yet another on/off hissy fit and I've been forced to work off-line (again), I've been writing more (yay!) and procrastinating less (well, sort of) and realised just how much "stuff I've overheard" goes into my books and stories. If asked, I usually say it's all made-up - but it isn't, well, not all of it...

This year, because last year was horrible for all sorts of reasons, The Toyboy Trucker and I have been making the effort to go out on a Friday night. Nothing swish you understand. Just for a cheapo meal in one of the many restaurants in our small town that are practically empty these days (along with the pubs - a sad sign of the times), so that we can actually talk to one another about our week instead of slumping in front of the telly and grunting. And every Friday night, because the places are so empty and the sound carries so well, I can also listen. And not just to The Toyboy Trucker...

Recently overheard (and squirrelled away to be altered ever-so-slightly and used at a later date) snippets include:

"... and I'm on statins and Warfarin and aspirin and me blood's like water and you can't say better'n that..."

"... and then when HE comes home she 'as to perform 'er wife's duties straight away - an' sometimes HE'S that impatient she doesn't even 'ave time to take off 'er Marigolds..."

"To my mind, it was the last thing you'd expect to see in Weston-Super-Mare. Alf didn't know where to look. I said to him, 'It's not like it's Lloret nor nothing, is it? You'd expect to see that sort of thing going on in Lloret even though it's practically like Weston-Super-Mare only hotter and with more people wearing less clothes.'"

"... just listen to yourself. You're setting her up to be some sort of saint. Yes, I know she's only just died but she was a complete cow and I don't mind who knows it. Oh, and she hated your guts - always did - even if she was your mother..."

"So then, once we'd got the pearl barley out with the tweezers..."

"Why in God's name would anyone with her problems want to wear that colour? She looked like a bloody turnip."

"Don't you talk to me about political correctness, I said. I'll speak my mind - I don't care who I insults, me. People should 'ave thicker skins. I always tells the truth. I think it's why people like me. Silly sod wouldn't 'ave it and just kept crying though..."

"Boils run in our family. Me dad was a martyr to boils. Always had pus on 'im somewhere."

"... we went to Madeira. Nice place but we wouldn't go back again. It was full of foreigners..."

"Joan - her with the big nose and the poodle - she won the lottery last week. A tenner she got. She's only been playing for six months at a pound a week so she's quids in..."

"So I said to Nev, you don't want to mix with the likes of her. Everyone knows what she gets up to. She votes Liberal Democrat."

"... and it never even said swingers on the invite. And even if it had we wouldn't have known what it meant because we don't read the posh papers, and then even when that fat girl from Londis - you know the one who had the accident on the bouncy castle who thinks she's a cut-above? - said what it was we thought it was something to do with Frank Sinatra or big bands because it was for their silver wedding and it was in the village hall after all, and you could have knocked us down with the proverbial feather when we realised it meant - well - swapping. There wasn't anyone there I'd have wanted to swap with thank you very much. And, I ask you, who'd want our Frank with his feet? He's never had his socks off since 1983. Our Natalie said afterwards that what's you get for trying to mix with the upper classes..."

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Ooops!


Well, that's been fun. One big bang, two small fizzles and a nasty on-screen "fatal error" message - yep, it's been another almost-two weeks without the computer...

Well, not quite true - I've been able to work off-line (which is good news for Midnight Feast which is now almost up to the 45,000 words it was before I deleted them - and this time they're much nicer, funnier ones - I think...) and this time it wasn't me pressing the wrong buttons - it was the ISP's fault.

Sadly, we (TTT and I) only discovered this after replacing the modem (twice), calling in an expert (12 years old and quite amazingly clever) to sort out a) the mother board and b) the hard drive - neither of which needed sorting. It was only after an exasperated telephone call to the ISP (prior to chucking the whole damn thing out of the window and making yet another trip to PC World) that gave us the answer. Ooops, they said, our error. Nothing wrong with your computer. Our fault - we're really sorry... We'll get it back on track soon as. And they did.

So, now I'm back online - and will no doubt catch up with blogging and answering emails and things as soon as poss. That's after I've read everyone else's blogs, and checked message boards, and wasted hours catching up with all the really vital online stuff that makes up my writing day. Ah, it's lovely to be back...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Interview Techniques


For some reason, I've suddenly been asked to offer my pearls of wisdom and alleged writing expertise on a wide range of subjects. For a really, really brief period I got a bit big-headed and thought I must be the current author-of-choice, but only briefly. Now I've decided that it's probably because they've run out of Proper Writers...

Whatever - I'm not proud. I'm just delighted to be asked. So, this week I've done a stonking FIVE interviews with different people for various publications on all sorts of subjects - from fireworks to Epstein Barr; from how I manage to write in such a mess and muddle to how I bit the bullet and gave up the day job; from my research methods to why I stopped writing mainstream chicklit and started writing magical bucolic frolics. I've loved every minute of it. And I really, really appreciate being asked.

No publicity is bad in my opinion - no, not even that rather painful and corrosive piece about me being a gurning nonentity in The Times by a far more literary writer than I'll ever be - and any opportunity for anyone who writes to get their name out there in any capacity is A Good Thing. So this is a public thank you to all those who took time to ask me questions and patiently sorted out the dross of my answers.

I really welcomed being interviewed by fellow rom-com author Olivia Ryan. She's written a fab feature on Giving Up The Day Job (to be published later in the year - will post details as soon as I know). I was included with such romantic novelist luminaries as Judy Astley and Katie Fforde and Fenella Miller - and am still basking in the afterglow.




It's always flattering to be asked for your views by another author, and especially so as I LOVE Olivia Ryan's books (check her out at www.oliviaryan.com). I bought second copies of her hilarious and oh-so-true Tales From A Hen Weekend and Tales From A Wedding Day as a honeymoon beach-reading present for Elle (they'd make great engagement/hen night/wedding presents for any dedicated chicklit lover) who read them on Waikiki Beach and absolutely loved them and is now a hooked Olivia fan. We're both now feverishly waiting for the final book in the trilogy - Tales From A Honeymoon Hotel - which is out on July 2nd. Oh, and if you're reading this, Olivia, I've already got my order in on Amazon - I'm not asking for freebies!!!!

I've always found it's better to be honest when being interviewed - even if what you have to say isn't exactly what's expected. I'm certainly not a typical writer (come on - take a look at my lifestyle!) but try to explain how writing fits in with my Other Life (with difficulty, usually). I know I love to read about how other writers work - even if it does make me wonder how I ever manage to get anything done - or how other writers got started, or anything at all that might just help me to improve how I do things. We can all learn from one another - and I know I've gained numerous nuggets of brilliance from authors I admire.

One area of writing I'm rather proud of this morning is my new found ability to delete at will! Yesterday - after a sleepless night of agonising - I deleted Midnight Feast and started again. And now it's flying! I've been up since 4.30 (it wasn't even light!) and have done over 3,000 words already today. I'd written myself into a turgid corner and knew that there was no way out. So, I've just kept all my characters (who I loved) and changed the setting and the start and made it funnier and really, really off the wall - and it's suddenly zinged into life for me now. Hopefully it'll zing into life for Those Who Matter...

I've happily told The Toyboy Trucker (sorry, still can't get into Toyboy Transport Manager) that it's now "Cold Comfort Farm meets Masterchef". I won't tell you what he said - but hopefully he's wrong, wrong, wrong....

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Home Again


Elle and The Doctor are home from here! This is where they've spent the last three weeks. It's Hawaii's only 6-star hotel - and is clearly paradise. It's called Halekulani and means "house befitting heaven" - which it obviously is and was....

They had an amazing honeymoon in Hawaii and came home via Chicago and Washington. Jealous? Me? What do you think???? But it was wonderful to collect them at Heathrow and do that embarrassing hurling myself at them (I'd sworn I wouldn't - but just got swept away in the heat of the moment) as they emerged into the arrivals hall. And they were so brown! The doctor, of course, is always brown - but was, to his delight, even browner - especially his legs (which he showed us straight away much to Heathrow's amusement) and Elle is a gorgeous toffee colour. Sigh...

Despite having just travelled for 26 hours (business class - natch) they talked non-stop all the way home in the car and I gather that Hawaii is simply the best place on earth. It all sounded quite incredible - especially the vivid colours everywhere and the exotic flowers (Elle is no gardener and The Doctor can't tell one plant from another but they both seem well up in hibiscus, oleanders and orchids now) and the rainbow fishes and the warmth and friendliness of the Hawaiian people... I am not jealous, I am not jealous, I am not jealous....



This was their bathroom - gulp - where they could simply float in scented, candlelit water and gaze at the sea - and no, I'm still not even a teeny weeny bit jealous... And they can now both do Polynesian dances and were very moved by the Pearl Harbour memorial, spent a day on the Lost island, did the Obama trail, and have discovered the joys of The Cheesecake Factory... I'm sure there will be lots more stories emerging once they're no longer jet-lagged and have stopped sulking about it being All Over.

Still, now they're home, hopefully we can get to grips with the official photographs of the wedding - blimey, how long ago does that seem now??? I'm really looking forward to having a wallow in the memories of the day - and might even manage to post a pic of the m-o-t-b frock at last...

Now - back to reality. I'm getting on with Midnight Feast, The Toyboy Trucker is getting to grips with being a Toyboy Trucking Manager, and Elle and The Doctor have to go back to work! Hah!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I've Got A Happy Trucker!


This post is simply to say a HUGE HUGE HUGE public congratulations to my darling Toyboy Trucker because today he's passed his CPC!!! I'm SO proud of him. It was a killer - both in terms of studying and the legal, business, management and practical exams themselves - and although the slog was all over in February (and of course he was convinced he'd failed miserably) the results weren't known until today - and he's passed! All three exams! He's now fully qualified to run his own haulage company (if he ever wants to), has the top professional qualifications in road transport management and national road haulage, and is a STAR!

I do know how hard these exams are because when I wrote my lorry-driving novel - Running the Risk - Georgia, my heroine had to have a CPC in order to run her transport company and I sent for the study courses and exam papers as research. Sheesh! I was glad then it was only fiction.... Little did I know...

This is just the sort of joyous news we needed to lift our flagging post-wedding spirits while the Happy Couple are still frolicking in Hawaii and while I'm still dredging through the Moonshine proofs.

Hopefully we'll be celebrating wildly tonight!

However, I do have one reservation though - Toyboy Transport Manager simply doesn't have the same ring to to it somehow,does it?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Reality Check


The morning after the night before. Sad photo of Elle's forlorn and abandoned wedding dress (think she must have leapt out of it from a standing start!), unloved and unwanted on the floor of the honeymoon suite. Which just about sums it - and my current feelings - up...

Well, that's that then. Wedding all over; Elle and The Doctor frolicking in the surf on Waikiki Beach (they've sent phone-pics - bless them!); all staying-over friends have left - T&T have flown back to Jersey, J&I ditto to Switzerland, R,J,M & B have returned to York, and F&S have coupled up the caravan and headed back to Devon.

It's all over.... Sigh...

I've no doubt that I'll be using gratuitous snap-shot wedding photos to illustrate the blog posts for a while yet. Well, at least until we get the official ones and I can edit them for a hopefully suitable pic of the m-o-t-b outfit... However am now having grave concerns that the entire outfit was way-too-bling and that the vintage beaded jacket was just a tad too sparkly, and the silk frock was just a touch too frou-frou and the red satin killer heels were probably - well - frankly - tarty... Everyone said I looked nice. Nice isn't what I'd aimed for. I'd aimed for spectacular - and now think, with all the aforementioned doubts and having abandoned the fascinator as too silly for words and having forgotten to wear any jewellery (too much of a rush before getting Elle into her wedding dress), I actually looked like someone half-dressed for a fancy dress party. Will wait and see what the official photos show of course - but I'm not optimistic here...

Still outraged that the outlaws didn't even send Elle and The Doctor a wedding congrats card! Not one single one of them. Not even ma-in-law - and she was actually there (although under protest and VERY bad-tempered). Surely they could have managed a card? Wouldn't that just be good manners or a sort of family-friendly thing to do? As Elle and The Doctor didn't want presents, a card - especially when you've ditched attending the wedding at the last minute - wouldn't have been too much to ask? I think this just underlines their ignorance and rudeness and shows they clearly want nothing more to do with us -which is good because that's what they're going to get!

Hurrumph.... Sod 'em all!

And now today the Moonshine proofs have arrived - and I really, really must get back to work.

Sigh again....

So, on a writerly note (I AM a writer, I AM, I AM...)- I've sold yet another short story to Yours (this seems to be my target market at the moment - and very welcome given the rapid demise of magazine fiction generally) - so thanks again Womag - wouldn't have done this without you. Am 5 chapters into Midnight Feast and have side-lined Off The Wall for a while. Have also had a couple of ideas for new series to follow on from the practical magic ones and am hoping my agent and editor will also think they've got legs - the stories, that is, not my agent and ed...

Oooh, yes! And I've had royalties again!!!! Loads and loads of royalties!!! Got really excited about it - it's a rare occurrence for me I can tell you, but one I could get used to. Have been very, very circumspect and shovelled them away for a) the next tax bill, b) unexpected disasters/household bills, and c) those months later in the year when I know (wise after the event and having now read my contract!) when I won't have any nice chunks of money. Still, it's kept the bank happy and made me smile. And After The Wedding, smiles are in short supply here, I can tell you.

And thanks to my wonderful German publishers buying my entire back list, I've been having an ongoing conversation with my German translator/editor because she's currently working on Hubble Bubble and there's a mention of my hero resembling Heath Ledger in it, and because of HL's sad and untimely death, we both felt it would be better to replace him with another movie star... And - eeek - she wanted Leonardo di Caprio. Now, I'm sure little Leonardo is lovely in his own way, but he certainly isn't how I see my wild-haired, dangerous-dark-eyed, sexy Shay. We've argued for a couple of days and I think I've now convinced her that Johnny Depp would be a worthy stand-in for poor Heath... Will let you know.


And coming right down to earth, have just taken Jonah (above) to the vet for his twice-yearly check-up on his ongoing ulcerative gingivitis (all clear) - and discovered during the tests that he possibly has hyper-thyroidism... He had to have more bloods taken which have been sent away for analysis and we'll get the results on Monday. If they're positive for hyper-thyroidism our lovely vet explained it'll involve either life-long medication or surgery. Either of which will chomp nicely into the royalties - sigh... Still, as The Toyboy Trucker and I would sell our souls twice over for Jonah we'll do whatever it takes....

And now I will open the folder that says WIP - and Will Get On With It! When I've done the Moonshine proofs, and looked at the wedding pics again, and slashed and hacked the jungly bits in the garden, and cuddled Jonah and....

Monday, 13 April 2009

WOW!!!



So - Elle looked totally, totally beautiful. The Doctor looked wonderfully handsome. Neither of them were nervous. Neither of them ever stopped smiling for a minute all day. The Toyboy Trucker and I have now got the most wonderful, kind, gentle, funny and amazing son-in-law in the world. The bridesmaids were sensational. The best man was a star. The weather was warm - it was partly cloudy but the sun shone brightly all afternoon, and despite the dire forecast there was no rain, and no wind at all. The stately home venue was out of this world - and the whole day went like a dream. No, it was even better than that - it was a living, breathing fairytale.









Take back all I've ever said on this blog about the whole thing being way, way OTT and a huge waste of money - it was simply breath-taking. It was the best day of Elle and The Doctor's life - and of mine. Everyone there (over 200 of them) said they'd never experienced anything like it!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your support - you were absolutely right - those outlaws who opted out simply don't know what they missed - and to be honest we didn't even notice they weren't there. It was the most blissful - um - counting on fingers here - 20 hours of my life...





Will just post a few pics today - like this one of Elle sharing a joke with her lovely new in-laws - but as these are ones I took, there were huge gaps in the proceedings when I couldn't get at my camera (the actual ceremony and the reception and the speeches etc) - and the official ones won't be available until Elle and The Doctor are back from Hawaii in May - there possibly won't be any of me in the m-o-t-b frock for a while (phew!) but I think they give some idea of what it was like... An absolute dream come true... Huge sigh of happiness...


Elle and The Doctor had planned it down to the last minute detail - it wasn't simply a wedding, it was a true celebration of their love and a fusion of cultures and an entertainment event no-one will ever forget!!!



From the second The Doctor and his family swept up the drive in a cavalcade of cars all bedecked with red and gold ribbons and playing bhangra music, on to me helping Elle into her dress, both of us amazingly calm and happy, through the heart-stopping moment when The Toyboy Trucker walked Elle so proudly down the aisle of the 16th century wedding room, all through the beautiful, emotional and very personal marriage service, through the champagne-and-Pimms reception on the terraces and in the glorious gardens while the official photos were being taken, on to the Indian banquet Wedding Breakfast (in a fabulously decorated dining room awash with red and gold, masses of flowers, and the most gorgeous HUGE garlanded Ganesh - all this, I must add, presided over by an ex-Blues and Royals toast master in full regalia and complete with his Buckingham Palace ceremonial sword for cutting the fabulous three-tiered, three-flavoured chocolate wedding cake!!!),



then the amazing moment after the meal when the black curtains, all twinkling with thousands of white pin-prick lights, swept back to Elvis's "Viva Las Vegas" to reveal a full-blown casino! There were roulette wheels and black jack tables and fruit machines - and proper croupiers - and everyone was given a starting $100 to play with!!!




Then there were two bands - one bhangra, one rock - and then, when it was properly dark, a spectacular twenty minute firework display (certainly the most amazing display I've ever seen!) in the grounds with more champagne and strawberries. And then, when we all thought we couldn't manage any more, we all swept back into the ballroom and danced until dawn to the rock band while waiters circulated with huge bowls of chips, hot bacon rolls, nice veggie samosas and things like that - and of course cake, cake and more cake... Then we all staggered off to our bedrooms (everyone stayed overnight) to emerge bleary-eyed a few short hours later for a Full English...


Oh, and this final pic is a clutch of Mates From The Estate just about to bombard Elle and The Doctor with confetti...

And, in case you were wondering, apart from a few tears when Elle and The Toyboy Trucker first walked down the aisle, I didn't cry! I even did my reading and a small speech in the reception without faltering, and just think I was far too happy to cry... Awwww - it was truly the Best Day Ever - and I don't think I'll EVER come down to earth!