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


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...