Monday, 31 December 2007
Today I’m cooking for a party, and preparing for a final extravaganza of overindulgence before a return to sobriety, ryvita and resolutions tomorrow. Wishing everyone a great New Year’s Eve—but more importantly—an inspired, positive and happy 2008. Maybe it’s too much to ask that all your dreams will come true—but just one or two would be nice. (Which one would you choose?)
Sunday, 23 December 2007
Now I’m going to go and weep quietly into the sink while preparing the sprouts. Just as well The Railway Children isn’t on until tomorrow or I’d be a puddle.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
This morning, staring despondently down at a Things To Do List that extended to several pages (in fact, might possibly have exceeded the word count of my current ms) as I simultaneously tried to ice fairy cakes for daughter #3’s class party, the irony of this struck me afresh.
Monday, 17 December 2007
The tree in question is one got last year from a farm where you go and wander round a conifer forest the size of Scotland, choose the tree you want and dig it up. In theory this sounded wonderfully wholesome and festive, but the cracks soon began to show: five people tramping around a forest in the freezing cold, trying to agree on one tree out of thousands was not a recipe for family harmony. If anyone reading this ever finds themselves embarking upon a similar epic quest, please take this advice: Just don't.
Anyway, several hours, three cases of hypothermia, one broken spade and a pending divorce later we finally got The Beast home and realised that a tree that looks small in a forest full of towering pines is actually GINORMOUS once placed in an average sized, low-ceilinged sitting room. (Every year I slip into complete and happy denial about the modest proportions of our house, and confidently select a tree clearly only suitable for the drawing room at Sandringham) However, after a bit of strategic pruning (and a glass or two of sherry) it didn't look too bad.
So, after Christmas-- with the trauma still fresh in our minds-- we carefully planted the tree at the far end of the garden, where Muffin the rabbit made it his Campaign Headquarters and Centre of Operations for launching vicious ambushes on Ruby the airhead cat. We hardly expected it to survive, but amazingly it did, and this year I approached the whole Tree Issue in the smug knowledge that ours was ready to pluck from the soil right on the doorstep in a simple and trauma-free operation taking probably five minutes tops.
It soon became apparent that tree had not only survived, but positively thrived, establishing a vast and vigorous root system that spread beneath half the garden. Venturing out about two hours after my husband had just 'nipped out' to get it, I found him knee deep in a huge crater that used to be the lawn, the tree listing at a drunken angle as he hacked through the last roots with a giant and sinister looking axe. It took two of us another hour to manhandle it into the house, where we discovered that the previously Sandringham-sized Christmas tree is now of Trafalgar Square proportions.
This morning have returned from the school run to find Muffin the rabbit exposed and shivering in the bottom of the crater, an expression of extreme indignation on his face. Can't help but sympathise. I think it would have been better left where it was, too.
Friday, 14 December 2007
competition to win help with the washing up from Daniel Craig. There were LOADS of entries, as I discovered last night at half past twelve when I printed them out and started tearing them up into little individual bits for my daughters to pick out of a hat/empty cereal box this morning.
Next time I must a) buy more tea towels and b) start tearing earlier.
The answer,of course, was that the inspiration for Angelo in The Italian's Captive Virgin, was kindly provided By Alex Pettyfer, and the winner, picked by Daughter #2 (who got up first) is HANNAH. Congratulations!
Thursday, 13 December 2007
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
(**falls off chair laughing**)
Reached something of a low point last night when my husband rather annoyingly announced that the last posting dates are looming, and I realised that not only are all the presents that need posting still unwrapped and languishing in drawers and cupboards, but a good many of them are also still unbought and languishing in Marks and Spencers. Oh dear. However, still in positive frame of mind I went to unearth the pitiful few that I do have, only to discover that I’d left the wrapping paper I bought yesterday (in a brave attempt to get on top of things) in the shop.
I think I now know why hedgehogs hibernate.
But just when a downwards spiral into misery and recrimination seemed inevitable, salvation came in the form of an email from the lovely Amanda Ashby, in which (amongst other things) she posed the interesting question 'if David Boreanaz and James D'Acry were in a naked mud wrestling competition who would win?' Definitely something to ponder as I sit through Carol Service Number Two later on. Early research suggests that David has the weight advantage, but that James has height and gorgeous hands on his side... (And of course the gorgeous hands matter. To me, anyway.)
Thursday, 6 December 2007
(Ooh... hold that thought. But forget the washing up...)
*sigh*. Maybe I shouldn't have started reading it until all the shopping was done...
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
While the children spent the day rehearsing at the arena, us mums hit the shops. The plan was to make a full-scale tactical assault on Christmas shopping (which, thanks to Olivier I've barely started) but unfortunately by 2.30 we found ourselves in the champagne bar at Harvey Nichols. Oops. Basic error.
Anyway, must rally my strength to announce the second of this week's exciting competitions. This one is a group celebration with four other lovely writers, and the answers are available on our websites (better just go and check that mine, in fact, is...) Here goes!
Sunday, 2 December 2007
My brain has been so scrambled with recent deadline issues that I haven’t been taking full and proper notice of the world beyond my keyboard. Apparently, while I’ve been putting my poor, tormented hero (we’ll call him Olivier, as that’s his name, though for some random reason I’ve been keeping that quiet) on the rack, life has been continuing around me, in all sorts of exciting ways. Like this one, for example...
But the other thing that I really like about this competition is the timing. Oh yes. It might not seem like it at the moment, when if you’re anything like me the only thing you can think of writing is lists beginning ‘buy sellotape,’ and ending 'world peace', but once all that Christmas business is over we’ll hit the best time of the whole year for making things happen. New Year.
The deadline for entries is Valentine’s day, so in case anyone reading this is thinking of entering I’m starting a sort of coaching programme right here-- kind of like sporty-type people would do ahead of a big race, but without involving trainers or unflattering tracksuits (not in public anyway... I absolutely swear by pyjamas for writing, but it’s quite important that you remember not to venture out in them.)
Here’s phase one. Enroll now.
1. The first thing to do is put Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance on your Christmas list. Preferably near the top (the only thing that’s allowed to take preference is diamond earrings... but in my experience it’s not even worth trying). If you think there’s still a margin for error and by some horrible chance it might not appear in your stocking on the big day, slip one into your Amazon basket while doing the buying for everyone else.
2. On Christmas day, the moment the last sprout has been scraped into the bin (and you’ve finished asking yourself whether it was worth spending 2 hours cutting crosses into 97 of them) recruits will be expected to settle down with the above book, and a glass of wine, and think... Romance. Conflict. Passion. Just think, mind... no writing yet.
3. In that lovely dead time between Christmas and New Year you'll be expected to slope off for plenty of long baths, with a box of Belgian truffles and an armful of Mills&Boon Moderns or Modern Extras. You'll read, lots, and this is when you'll need to decide, if you haven’t already, which line you’re targeting.
4. New Year’s Eve... is when the Big Girls get serious. As midnight strikes you have to kiss the nearest person to you and think this is the year I’m going to give my dreams a chance. (The kissing bit is probably optional, depending on who the nearest person is. If it’s James d’Arcy you have a solemn duty to act on my behalf.)
5. New Year’s Day. Those who've stayed the course so far will be allowed the morning off to recover from their hangovers, (and make any necessary phonecalls to apologise for the kissing) but by the evening will have to have prepared themselves for the task that lies ahead. After all, there's just 6 weeks to go until the closing date, and the first job is to write that synopsis...
And, in the New Year we’ll pick up the training from there! If you're at all thinking of entering....DO it!!
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Monday, 26 November 2007
This lovely tea-towel will feature highly on my very own Christmas list (so glamorous...), and will also form part of my website competition giveaway for the launch of The Italian’s Captive Virgin-- when I finally get round to getting it all up and running.
(Do you see what I’m doing here? I’m pretending that life is fun and there are no such thing as deadlines, panic attacks and crows of doubt. Clever, eh?)
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Yesterday I had my most difficult and scary writing day ever. I almost would have preferred to be back on a freezing hockey pitch, which just goes to show how difficult and scary it was. Must not look down. Must just keep going....
Thursday, 15 November 2007
Hurrying home from the school run to my lovely warm office I had a sudden vivid flashback to being about 15 years old and standing shivering with cold, misery and deep, deep resentment on a frosty hockey pitch during one of those endless, punishing PE lessons.
Suddenly I wanted very much to stride over the frozen mud to that scowling teenager (muttering a few choice words to the Nazi PE teacher on the way) and tell her it would all turn out alright. That one distant day, mildewed aertex and ritual humiliation in the name of team sports would be a thing of the past and she would be able to spend her days in the warm, dreaming up luscious men.
(I might also tactfully mention, while I was about it, that lusting after George Michael was a big fat waste of time...)
What would you tell your 15 year old self, if you had the chance?
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Good news: The RSI seems to be abating slightly. Think this is due to drafting in long hand before typing, altering the position of my wrists when I do type, and following Rachel and Abby's advice on the red wine and chocolate to the letter. Thankfully the book is starting to take off on its own now. (Yes, I know. About time too.)
Bad news: The new series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here started last night here in the UK, heralding two spectacularly untimely weeks of hideously addictive TV viewing leading right up to my deadline....
Good news: The ‘celebrities’ are largely the barrel-scrapings of D-list anonymity and after ten minutes I gladly drifted back to my desk. Hurrah! Crisis averted. The relief....
Friday, 9 November 2007
Ouch, ouch, ouch. Like this book isn't hard enough to write already.
(You may have noticed that I've been pretty lax at keeping up with my labels, but the Self Pity tag is getting quite a lot of use....)
Monday, 5 November 2007
The weekend has been gorgeous. Saturday was damp and golden, Sunday all wreathed in blue-grey mist, and everything scented with fireworks and woodsmoke. Definitely the best time of the year, I think, and it was lovely to get a brief glimpse of it before getting my head into the book again.
My desk is now littered with conkers, scarlet leaves and fir cones collected by the girls as good luck charms. Let's hope they're as effective as they are pretty. I am so far behind it scares me....
Thursday, 1 November 2007
It was all a bridge too far for me.
'Don't worry mum,' said daughter #2 kindly. 'With the grey streaks in your hair you look really witchy already.'
Have spent an hour in Boots this morning, staring at shelves full of hair dye and thinking bad, unmotherly thoughts.
Monday, 29 October 2007
We went to see Stardust. I went with an attitude of magnanimous self-sacrifice, feeling that sitting through two hours of girly nonsense was the least I could do after a week of relentless neglect, and secretly planning to fall asleep in the middle, once the popcorn had run out. Anyway, this cunning plan was blown out of the water by the fact that the film was fab.
Treats for the mums included a totally all-star cast, featuring a squillion astonishingly top-notch actors popping up in cameo roles, a rattling good script with some glorious lines, Robert De Niro—twinkling of eye and swashbuckling of form, and brooding, black-clad Mark Strong as the sexy villain. Oh yes, and maybe, just maybe, Charlie Cox was another tiny reason why I managed to stay awake and glued to the screen too.
Hell-o. Have I ever mentioned that I can’t resist a man in boots and a frock coat?
The plot centres on Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, one of a trio of witch sisters, needing to capture Claire Danes and eat her heart in order to regain their lost youth and beauty. Well, you would wouldn’t you, if it took you from this...
(Hence the crisps and chocolate cake when we got home. )
Thursday, 25 October 2007
I was in my pyjamas (of course), but they brought lots of bottles of wine so I couldn't be irritated at the inconvenience for long.
(*shakes head in bewilderment*) What does it all mean??
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
(See that pained expression....?
...If he doesn't start behaving himself soon I'm going to give him very good reason for it.)
It's half term, so the opportunities for whipping him into shape are minimal I'm afraid. Today we are waiting in for the delivery of a new freezer, which, following on from my initiation into online shopping, is the next stage in my plan to become a total hermit for weeks on end as deadlines loom.
I am painfully aware as I write all this that there is no way to make it sound less dull than it is.
Friday, 19 October 2007
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
I have something in my eye. Something that feels like an enormous great boulder-sized piece of very sharp glass, but which is invisible. It is lodged just under my upper eyelid, at the outer edge, and makes blinking excruciating and sleeping impossible.
After wasting an hour of prime, day-time, child-free writing time waiting in the doctor’s surgery I am informed that it is probably an allergy. I disagree, although I am prepared to admit I could be allergic to the enormous boulder-sized piece of very sharp glass in my eye. The doctor points out (disapprovingly) that I am wearing mascara. I point out (defensively) that this is a good sign. For me, not wearing mascara will be one of the early symptoms of death.
I leave with a prescription. £6.45 later, in the chemist, I realise that it is for Allergy Eye Drops.
I am now wondering if a good cry will help by maybe washing away the enormous boulder-sized piece of very sharp glass. I think it’s considerably more likely to work than the stupid drops.
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
The turning point came on a recent glance at my site referrals, when I discovered that someone had arrived here via a search for James D’Arcy’s hands. I reckon if that’s what you’re looking for, you deserve to have your labours richly rewarded, and the fruits of them easily displayed for instant enjoyment. Thus, I bring you more James D’Arcy, and his hands—this time clearly labelled.
Share the love.
Thursday, 11 October 2007
On the current book front.... I'm now at the stage where the ideas are piling up crazily in my head and I just have to be patient and tell the story until I can get to the places where they slot in. It's not easy. Especially when I seem to be plagued by the presence of a constant stream of British Gas men at the moment, all searching for the elusive solution to the leaking pipes. The search seems to involve a lot of tea-drinking and much important typing on laptops in fab little zip-up cases.
I find this last bit particularly annoying, as thanks to the incessant interruption, I'm doing hardly any typing at all.
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Forget Anthea Turner and the dangerous lure of her mindless domestic routines. Come over and join me on the dark (and slightly dusty) side...
Friday, 5 October 2007
It's always instantly apparent when the writing is going well because the house (and me) descends into filthy chaos and neglect, the children go feral and meals are haphazard, last-minute concoctions usually featuring pasta. This week however, I have not only cleaned the fridge (oh yes, Rachel!) but also painted my toenails, taught Daughter #3 how to play draughts (and subsequently played approximately 87 games) and made jam tarts. All very bad signs indeed, although the lowest point came on Tuesday when I found myself scrubbing behind the basin taps with a toothbrush, and actually considering clearing out the airing cupboard.
It was a scary moment.
I'm hoping nothing that desperate will happen again for a long time. Today I feel like I'm back in business, and can't wait to write the bit where the hero and heroine have their first actual conversation. It's a tricky bit; my head is already with them, and I've been scribbling down snatches of dialogue since I woke up.
The house is a tip. All the signs are good. Normal service has been resumed.
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
Daughter #3 has been off school all week with an ear infection, so in the long, workless hours of Monday afternoon the two of us sat down at the computer and found Ocado.
Apart from a nasty moment when the computer had a small meltdown and pretended to lose an entire week’s worth of shopping (which had somehow taken two hours to accumulate) it was a breeze, and yesterday evening a lovely man appeared on my doorstep like a modern-day angel of mercy with lovely colour coded bags of wonderfulness. (Well, mostly of wonderfulness, but mixed with some utter rubbish obviously selected by daughter #3 who was on mouse-duty. I must have slipped into a slightly trance-like state at some stage during our two hour shopathon to allow Iced Gems and Mini-Pringles to get beneath the mum-radar...)
Unpacked and put it all away while wearing my pyjamas, just because I could. Am now joyfully envisaging a future in which proper clothes will be mostly unnecessary as everything I need will be brought directly to the door. Starting today, with my Amazon delivery....
How I'm supposed to get back to work once I have Natasha Oakley's The Tycoon's Princess Bride in my grasp is a mystery. It's a shame you can't buy willpower online too.
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Happy Birthday little pink heart!
I don't really want to dwell on the negative because there were some really good parts of the programme-- the contribution by Richmond editors Tessa Shapcott, Jo Carr and Meg Sleighthome for a start, Sharon Kendrick's robust dismissal of some tired old cliches, and some of the details about the history of the company (like the fact PG Wodehouse used to write for them!) were all great. So it's silly to get so disproportionately irritated by Celia Brayfield's (herself a writer of women's fiction) contribution which was breath-takingly spiteful to readers-- many of whom I suspect cross over between Mills & Boon and her books. Her considered opinion is that HMB books are written in 'tired' and 'hackneyed language', and that the editors have to go through manuscripts removing the cliches; 'But you can always see the holes where they've cut them out.'
Always, eh Celia?
She must read a lot of them to have noticed that. Which is odd considering she then went on to say that they're 'the lowest common denominator of reading, for people who can only just about read.' It makes you wonder why she wastes her oh-so-valuable time on them. And yet she must because, I mean, nobody would be stupid enough to judge and publicly denounce something they hadn't read would they?
(Celia also calls them 'mediocre'. I bet she'd give her eye teeth for some of Penny Jordan's 'mediocre' sales. 84 million books worldwide. Ouch. That must bite.)Thankfully Fay Weldon came along just in the nick of time and hit the nail on the head (what a shame Celia Brayfield wasn't standing in the way). Her comment 'I will fight to the death for readers to read what they want' reminded me of Virginia Woolf''s argument in 'A Room of One's Own' in which she denounces exactly Celia Brayfield's obnoxious brand of literary snobbishness
This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women....
So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair on the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve is the most abject treachery...
All in all the programme delivered few surprises, but there was one notable one. Julian Boon's voice. Mmmm... deep, mellow, delicious, and oddly out of place at 11.30 in the morning. I wonder if the powers that be would agree to him doing the 'Book at Bedtime' slot... reading a Mills & Boon, of course....
This morning will see me retreating to bed with a notebook (though it's unlikely that romantic inspiration will strike when my head is full of wallpaper paste) a lemisp and the radio, so that I can listen to this on Radio 4 at 11.30. Am slightly nervous at this prospect-- for reasons so beautifully and concisely expressed by Kate Walker, here, and also incase after listening to the bit about the writing course I realise that I don't have what it takes to be a Mills&Boon author.
Think I shall also arm myself with the biscuit tin and several pieces of toast and jam, to ward off feelings of insecurity and because ancient medical lore says you must feed a cold. Technically I think that means today I'm eating for two.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Monday, 24 September 2007
I kind of fell in love with London a bit, which took me by surprise as for a long time I’ve maintained a stubborn prejudice against it. This stems from a nightmare visit a few years ago during which I came to the conclusion that attempting to negotiate the capital with a pushchair and small children is a bit like trying to climb Everest in stilettos—ie. dangerous and ultimately futile. This time it all felt very different as I left my Bloomsbury hotel and strode purposefully off to meet my lovely editor.
We met over afternoon tea in the most astonishing and fabulous place—the Wolseley hotel in Piccadilly, which looks like an imposing 1930s bank. My editor was very excited when I arrived as she’d just spotted Cilla Black-- but frankly I was so thrilled to be meeting her that James d’Arcy could have come striding in and I wouldn’t have glanced twice at him. (Well... maybe I would... but only to show how seriously I take research....)
Returning to the hotel several hours later I found Abby Green in residence (luckily, having arrived first, I’d already bagged the best bed and most of the hanging space in the wardrobe) and so began forty eight hours of non-stop talking, punctuated by regular sessions of eating and drinking. That night we met fellow Presents authors Kate Walker, Michelle Reid (both of whom had generously brought along their lovely men to share) Jacqui Baird, Christina Hollis and Natalie Rivers and it was one of those evenings that speeds by in a blur of great company until you suddenly realise it’s 1.30 am.
On Friday morning I’d intended to get up early and take in shops and culture, but was badly led astray by my room-mate and ended up spending the morning eating croissants in bed and watching trash tv. Eventually we got ourselves smartened up and set off for the AMBA lunch, which was held in the RAF club in Piccadilly. I was pretty excited to be there as the hero in the book I’ve just finished (gorgeous Orlando Winterton) is an ex-RAF fighter pilot, so I half expected to see his portrait on the walls alongside all the other distinguished officers. Disappointment that I didn't was more than made up for by meeting up with friends old and new (including lovely Donna Alward, who'd come over from Canada) and by the glorious food. Afterwards the Q&A session, led by Michelle Styles, was great—exactly how I always felt lectures should be when I was at university—interesting, informative, relevant, and carried out over delicious pudding and petits fours.
In the couple of hours between lunch and evening drinking we walked over to Selfridges where Abby, Donna and I went in search of the underwear department while the other members of our party went for a cup of tea. I took the opportunity to nip off and buy a going-home present for The Daughters in the form of a vast box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts (unavailable in the cultural wasteland of the north) and then realised I was going to have to carry them around with me for the remainder of the evening, thus significantly hampering my attempts to look sleek and businesslike. Luckily, on arriving at the Oriental Club where Mills & Boon were holding the annual Toast to the Authors we discovered a cupboard in the huge and stately ladies cloakroom and, leaving the doughnuts in there, sailed forth to drink champagne.
It was a lovely evening. Not only did I get to put faces to many familiar names, but also cheer on Kate Hardy and Kate Walker as they collected beautiful diamond-studded pins for 25 books and 50 books respectively. Then it was time to collect the Krispy Kreme package and make our way through dark streets to the restaurant where the partying continued...
(Meg Sleighthome of HMB, Michelle Styles and Abby Green)
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Daughters 1 and 3 are the first to succumb, appearing from their respective schools yesterday scarlet of nose and streaming of eye. My initial reaction was one of solicitous sympathy-- which quickly turned to horrified recoil as I realised I'm going to London tomorrow for three whole days of pretending to be sleek and chic. This is hard enough already. I want to ditch my usual scruffy bag with its permanent collection of Polly Pocket accessories and ancient till receipts, and go minimal with a teeny-weeny handbag containing nothing but a lipstick and a credit card. I want to waft expensive perfume. I do not want to cart around 4 boxes of Kleenex mansize and create a ten metre exclusion zone around me with the reek of Olbas oil, so have been administering calpol at arm's length, guzzling vitamin C and trying not to breathe in too deeply when I hug my patients. I'm sorry to read over on her blog that Kate Hardy is already suffering, and sitting here sneezing I'm resigned to a similar fate....
Spookily enough, this week marks the first anniversary of the day when I heard my first book had been accepted. That was on September 20th 2006, at about 3.45pm, and exactly a year on I'll be having afternoon tea with the very lovely Mills & Boon editor who made that call! I'm really excited-- and not just about the thought of tea and cake (though that does have a strong appeal, of course...) We may have exchanged countless phone calls and emails in the meantime but it'll be the first time we've ever actually met, and the timing seems wonderfully fitting.
Other highlights of the coming trip include meeting up with all the friends I've made in the last year (which seems, in lots of ways, to have flown by-- but on the other hand I feel like I've known these lovely friends for waaaaay longer), and indulging in the sort of food and drink extravaganza that promises to make the last days of the Roman Empire look positively abstemious in comparison. There's also the lure of all those shops, and the prospect of sharing a hotel room with a certain Abby Green, and maybe locking her in the bathroom until she's written the first chapter of my book for me while I raid the mini bar and watch satellite television.
It'll also be a tiny bit weird to step out of my mummy role for three days. I haven't left the children for that long before (though in case anyone from social services is reading this I should probably point out that I'm not leaving them on their own or anything) and I'm not sure how I'll cope, so I hope Abby won't mind if I inadvertently slip back into the groove and cut up her dinner and make her brush her hair. It's the harvest festival at school on Friday morning, and it could take quite a bit of retail therapy to ease the sting of not being able to see daughter #3 being an ear of corn, or daughter #2 singing a song about marrows. However, I'm looking forward to hearing what my husband manages to put together by way of a harvest gift. His will be the one containing the four pack of beer and the family-sized pizza.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
It emerges that the lovely under-floor heating effect I've been enjoying so much on these cold mornings is not entirely a good thing, as we don't in fact have under-floor heating. What we have instead is leaking hot water pipes.
As a result the kitchen now looks like something from an early Tudor peasant dwelling with a bare earth floor, and while I'm a great fan of period features it's not a look I'm very thrilled with. It's got to stay like that until it's all dried out, which could take 'a while' apparently. Perhaps I should strew it with herbs and weave a rush mat or two.
Speaking of 'not very thrilled,' in the midst of all this-- and much to the amusement of the Gas Men-- the advance copies of book 2 arrived. I'm not really feeling the love for the cover, which depicts a staid-looking couple having a snog over the back of an uncomfortable sofa in a terribly smart sitting room. Since most of the action in the book takes place on a yacht I'm slightly puzzled. Oh well. It's an excellent excuse to post another picture of the lovely Alex Pettyfer, whose fallen-angel looks inspired Angelo (who of course, is older and colder, but just as beautiful...)
Here's the book. It's out in January in the UK, and at no point in it does the hero wear a beige shirt, I promise...
Friday, 7 September 2007
Have achieved precisely none of the above, and it's all Amanda Ashby's fault, as from the moment the Amazon man delivered my copy of 'You Had Me at Halo' and I just sneaked a little look at the first page it was clear that I wasn't going to get a stroke of work done until I'd read it all. It's totally and utterly fab. I can't stress that enough. Totally. And utterly. Fab. Funny, (she has the greatest turn of phrase and the wittiest dialogue in the known universe) but it's also just a great idea that's simultaneously outrageous and completely believable. I'm about three-quarters of the way through, and I kind of don't want to finish it... (Though of course, if I don't, how am I ever going to get any work done?)
I suppose I should just be very relieved that my lovely husband spotted Abby Green's September release (The Kouros Marriage Revenge) in the shops last week when the ink was virtually still damp from the printing press, so at least I no longer have that one calling to me in a distracting manner from my TBR pile. I read it in huge, greedy stretches over the weekend (which accounts for the back-to-school chaos) and loved every page. Alexandros is so hot; fiercely arrogant and alpha, but there's one scene which really blew me away. I'd better not spoil it by saying which one, but it's quite near the end, and it kind of shows how relationships balance on a knife-edge, how the smallest gesture and the simplest act can alter the entire emotional landscape between two people. The whole book's beautifully executed-- damn her-- and definitely not to be missed.
In other news, I haven't forgotten about the website competition, but am waiting to post the name of the winner until I hear from her that it's OK! The draw took place amid appropriate formality and ceremony (or what passes for it in this house) on Wednesday evening, and the runners up are Jenny, Lily and Nathalie. Congratulations! Thanks so much to everyone who entered-- as it was my first ever competition I wasn't sure what to expect, so was pretty overwhelmed by the number of people who got in touch. It was so great to hear from you all, and I can't wait to do another competition when the next book comes out in January. Hurrah!
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
As a result of a lot of last-minute dashing around assembling the above items I haven't yet got round to organising the draw for my website competition. This is going to be done under very strict controls-- a bit like the National Lottery, but without Terry Wogan and music from a boyband. (Have to confess at this point that I haven't got a clue who presents the National Lottery draw as I'm far too disorganised ever to remember to buy a ticket. Am also terrified that if I did I'd instantly lose it and then discover-- six months later when I remembered to check-- that I'd won ten million pounds and couldn't claim it. Would then be sentenced to a lifetime of bitterness and recrimination as I searched endlessly through coat pockets, old handbags and the mulch of rubbish in the car....) Anyway, the draw is going to be scrupulously fair and impartial, and will take place tonight. I need to get to work on the book, and can't properly sketch in the secondary characters until I know who they are and what their names will be!
The children are back at school and the house is very strangely quiet. That must be why I can hear the piece of chocolate cake in the fridge calling to me so plaintively...
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Spent a riotous long bank holiday weekend immersed in the depths of family, surrounded by brothers and cousins and happily regressing to the age of about nine. Every year we descend on my lovely and extremely long-suffering stepmother to camp in her fields, swim in her pool, take over her kitchen and drink her out of house and home whilst reminiscing about past summers spent together and slotting neatly back into the roles we filled all those years ago (in my case the plump, unsporty one-- see below). Usually this, and laughing immoderately over the odd grainy photograph featuring bowl haircuts and flared trousers takes up most of our time, but this year brother #1 (in a series of 3) decided to throw in an Olympic-style decathlon too. Guess who came last and brought home the wooden spoon?
Thursday, 23 August 2007
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
Am trying to be glad about this. It's excellent news. So why do I feel so lost? Think I'll just post one last photo of him to cheer myself up....
Friday, 17 August 2007
We emerged, half an hour later with three pairs of school shoes.
Oh yes. More than two weeks before the start of term!
This is organisation on a scale never previously achieved by me.
Two of the pairs of shoes have small windows in the bottom of the sole, through which a strange little doll peers eerily from a sort of medieval-style prison. You can release her by lifting a compartment inside the shoe. I started off with an attitude of extreme cynicism about this latest mad marketing ploy, but find myself increasingly fascinated by the possibilities of applying such 007 technology to shoes for grown-ups. You could have change for the car park secreted in your insoles. Or lipstick. Or emergency chocolate.
Must go and email Clarks head office with these suggestions immediately.
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Whitby is a strange and completely wonderful place-- a mixture of laid-back surfer cool, with vast, empty beaches pounded by north-sea rollers, and old-fashioned English seaside charm (the breeze is spiked with a vinegar tang from all the fish and chip shops along the pier.) However, these are both offset by an intriguingly dark undertone which sets it apart from other seaside towns. The beaches are pretty much devoid of shells, but are littered instead with fossils and jet, and thanks to its Dracula connection (Bram Stoker wrote part of the book while staying in Whitby and looking over to the ruined abbey on the clifftop opposite) the town boasts the title of Goth capital of Britain. Daughter #2, aged 9, has decided she wants to be a goth when she's older, and spent a long time gazing wistfully into shop windows draped with black crushed velvet and vampiric jewellery.
One of the best things about the week, apart from the miraculous weather and the plentiful supply of cold Pimms was the fact that for the first time in 4 years we were not staying in a tent. Camping has its charms, but after the last few deadline-dominated, sleep-deprived weeks I'm not sure I was in the right mood to appreciate them and it was bliss to soak in a bath (a gorgeous claw-foot Victorian bath, at that...) and fall into a proper bed at night.
However, all good things come to an end. Back home, the rain has returned, making a proper assault on the mountains of sandy washing inadvisable, and I keep coming across reproachful piles of beach 'treasures' which a proper mummy would no doubt display imaginatively, but which induce in me a spiralling apathy. Worst of all I am unable to ignore any longer the fact that none of my clothes seem to fit anymore, and am forced to contemplate a bleak spell of abstinence from cake and chocolate. (Am cheered by the thought that Pimms is still allowed-- actually, is virtually an essential diet component, probably containing 5 statutory portions of fruit if you drink enough of it...)
Anyway, must go and re-load washing machine, and dig out list of camping supplies for forthcoming expedition. Please, if anyone can think of a creative use for 57 flat stones, a handful of ammonites and 4 revolting limpet shells do let me know.
Saturday, 4 August 2007
Put everyone in charge of their own packing this morning, and retreated to the bedroom to spend a gorgeous, relaxing day doing desultory ironing while dreaming up my new hero. Should, however, have anticipated the glaring flaws in this plan, or at least have explained with devastating clarity what was meant by the term 'essential items'. Am adamant this does not include a Barbie horse and carriage, sequinned party shoes or 4 hot water bottles.
The Pimms and the ice box stay.
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
And I'm also, you know, kind of vaguely pleased to be described as 'an amazingly talented storyteller who has written a captivating romantic novel that is sexy, funny, moving, dramatic and totally engrossing.'
(Eeeeeekkk!!! That's my entry for 'understatement of the week'. Am actually so thrilled that even the ongoing state of my fridge can't take the ridiculous smile from my face.)
Read it here!
In other news, the sun has at long, long last made an appearance, meaning I've been able to banish the children to the garden while I update my website. I'm running a competition between now and September, and have some signed books and other assorted bits and pieces to give away, plus one randomly selected person will have the dubious honour of having a character in my next book named after them! (either their first or second names). All you have to do is contact me via the website form to enter!
(I feel there is a higher than average number of exclamation marks in this post. A clear indicator of over-excitement.)
Monday, 30 July 2007
Thursday, 26 July 2007
Am so nearly there. Will spend today re-reading the entire manuscript before writing the epilogue tonight. With the children on holiday my work routine has become pretty nocturnal, but there is an odd kind of joy to be found in the very dead hours of the night when everyone else is asleep and I'm alone with my hero, heroine and a bar of chocolate Heaven. It is a very odd kind of joy though. I have to confess I'm looking forward to getting back to the less specialist kind that comes from a glass of wine and an early night.
Have a long list of things to do once the book is sent in. Items include 'clean fridge,' 're-introduce myself to children', 'eat fruit' and 'run website/blog competition.' Please come back and play then!!
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
I don't know who the reviewer is, but she gives me 5 lovely shiny stars and says
Friday, 13 July 2007
Interview took place over the phone, and largely consisted of the journalist (male) asking a series of questions which all related to sex. How much? Why was it necessary? How difficult was it to write about? And most bizarrely of all-- was I embarrassed at readers finding out what I got up to in the bedroom?
Confused dot com.
By this point my goodwill had kind of evaporated, and I rather curtly pointed out that I write fiction. Maybe he'd got me mixed up with someone else. That girl from Big Brother or someone.
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
However, the fact is I'm homesick for Sainsburys. Am guiltily sloping off there now to lurk in the aisles, flick through tacky celebrity magazines and stock up on e-numbers and environmentally irresponsible cleaning products.
Friday, 6 July 2007
Think I can safely say this is the week when the rest of the world finally slid out of focus for me and the book took over. This is a great feeling. I am spending my days in a shadowy mansion with the utterly gorgeous James D'Arcy (whose real name of course is Orlando Winterton... Or do I have that the wrong way round...?) and I no longer notice the dust and squalor of my own house. Excellent!
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Husband emailed me from work on Friday to report an official sighting of The Italian's Defiant Mistress on the shelf at WH Smiths!
I am stupidly excited. I remember when I got the call last September (which always sounds vaguely like some sort of spiritual epiphany) it seemed an unimaginably long time until I would have a book actually on sale, but here I am, and there are Eve and Raphael, locked in their passionate, windswept embrace in our very own WH Smiths! I'd really like to get a picture of them there, but am not sure how to go about this... Do I lurk in the Romance section until all is quiet and go for the surreptitious 'slink and snap' technique? (and risk appearing shifty and slightly mad), or do I jump up and down going 'That's my book! That's my book!', thrust my camera into the hands of some hapless bystander and demand they photograph us both (thus coming across as completely bonkers, but in a reassuringly upfront way?) Vote now!
AND... as if I wasn't quite overexcited enough about this, I also discovered yesterday that I've had my very first review! Kym, over at Romance Reader at Heart has given the book 4 roses, which I'm pretty thrilled about, and said some nice things too, like
'India Grey pens a delightful, fun novel with THE ITALIAN'S DEFIANT MISTRESS. For her first published work, Grey does an outstanding job!... The characters are sympathetic and easy to relate to. The plot is fun and fast. I look forward to reading Grey's next novel.
Bottom line: grab a cool drink of iced tea, curl up and enjoy!'
After reading this I instantly wanted to catch the next transatlantic flight and go and give Kym a big hug for taking the time to read and review my book, and also for picking up on the slight edge of humour I tried to put in there. It's not something that's immediately associated with the Presents line, and given the relentless darkness of my current wip, I don't think it's going to be a hallmark of all my books, but in that one it just happened. Anyway, on reflection I decided that being accosted by an over-emotional stranger would be scary and traumatic for nice Kym, so settled instead for a more conventional and low-key form of celebration involving a bottle of wine and a Chinese take away. I guess it's to my husband's credit that during this he was pretty tolerant about being reminded 47 times that I am the author of a novel that is both delightful and fun.
Friday, 29 June 2007
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
(Had always imagined Muses to look a bit like Greek Goddesses, draped in diaphanous white chiffony garments. Maybe I won't be so intimidated by mine if I picture it as a skating panda?)
Oh well. Am now going to eat some more chocolate and carry on waiting for it to show up.
Monday, 25 June 2007
Actually, have thought of a couple of other good things about the weird weather. Firstly, husband has spent the weekend re-living his youth by watching coverage of the Glastonbury Festival, as he does every year, saying wistfully from time to time, 'we should go back, you know... the children would love it...' Thankfully this year the excess of rain, cold and mud has saved me the bother of dignifying these comments with a response, as the reasons why lashing out the price of a week's holiday somewhere warm and nice on 3 days camping in prehistoric conditions are patently obvious.
The other side benefit of a week of rain is that Wimbledon play will be minimal. Terrible news if you're a tennis player, or if you're my mum and have been virtually counting the days until the tournament starts, but excellent if you're a writer on deadline. (Selfish? Me?..... well OK, just a bit.....)
Am actually reaching that stage where the book feels like it's coming together, and have spent the weekend darting furtively into my study when no-one is looking. While it's annoying (and reminiscent of that Kit Kat advert from a few years ago-- must try to find it on youtube) to be struck by inspiration over a busy weekend, I guess that it's better than not being struck at all, and am facing a new week filled with resolve and high optimism. Or, if I'm being completely honest, resolve, high optimism, and rather too many chocolate biscuits following coffee with lovely friend and Presents goddess Penny Jordan. Every now and again we give ourselves one hour off to have a quick catch up and a chat, and the lovely thing is that even though we don't tend to talk about anything work-related I always leave her feeling energised and ready to write...
(Which, of course, is exactly what I would be doing if lovely friend Claire wasn't coming for lunch any minute.....)
Friday, 22 June 2007
So, usual frenzy of trying to get organised for school is further complicated by stalking through dripping undergrowth beneath towering foxgloves and damp showers of rosepetals, in hot pursuit. Ruby joins us, making the whole process infinitely more challenging by darting after him whenever he slows down, but just as it looks as if we might be there until lunchtime, the rabbit makes the tactical error of breaking cover and bounding crazily onto the patio, where I have no choice but to seize him.
Feel rather sorry for him as he is returned to his hutch and banged up. As we leave for school (damp and muddied) Ruby is on guard outside his door, looking smug.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
This outrageous midweek hedonism is in celebration of the anniversary of the day we met-- on midsummer night sixteen years ago at some awful black-tie ball on the very last night of our three years at university. Amazing to think that freedom, independence.... and the chance to share a girly flat, read romantic novels until 3 in the morning and spend all my money on nail varnish were all a mere twelve hours away. I blame the influence of Presents for the fact that I just could not resist a man in a dinner jacket.
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Am distressed by this evidence that my daughter regards my wardrobe as being 200 years out of date and peasant-like.
Anyway, probably have to admit that the ranting and the self-pity are not entirely to do with peasant clothes, and more about progress on the book, which is slower than planned. Am halfway through, which in itself is not a bad thing as the first half always takes twice as long as the second, but feel like I've been splashing about in the shallows now for far too long and just want to strike out for deep water. Am longing for the time where the shore, and real life, is no longer visible and there's nothing to do but keep going until I reach the other side.
(Though, knowing my luck, at that point I'll be pursued by someone in a motor-boat with a megaphone demanding an exact replica of Tutankhamun's death mask or something.)
Friday, 15 June 2007
First of all, let me say that a year ago if anyone had told me that June 2007 would see me (and husband—aka Him) opening the door of a lovely hotel room and finding a note on the table from Kate Walker, Romance Icon, saying ‘so glad you could join us...’ I’d have thought they were sending me up . But here we are, on a gorgeous day, checking into a gorgeous hotel for a very special weekend of celebrations.
Lincoln is beautiful—like the very best bits of York and Chester, with half as many people to share them with. We wander around the shops in the sunshine, and return up Steep Hill to the hotel. Steep Hill does exactly what it says on the tin—i.e. is very steep. Stupidly I have a bet with Him that I can get to the top first, and proceed at a cracking Girl Guide pace which nearly kills me but secures a victory (such things are so important in a marriage, I find). Triumph is very shortlived as we arrive at the hotel, hot and horribly sticky with exertion and find Kate, her lovely husband (the Babe Magnet) and numerous other writers of whom I’m terrifyingly in awe gathered in the bar. Kate—as warm and wonderful as ever, does not hesitate to introduce us to everyone, and romance writers, being the nicest people in the world, all proffer the kindest, most welcoming hugs and kisses. Find myself fervently wishing we had taken Steep Hill at a more gentle pace (and am ceratin they wish we had too!)
Flee upstairs for much needed cool shower and to get changed for the evening, and go back down an hour later to find the gorgeous Orangery, where we are to enjoy pre-dinner drinks, filling up. Straight away spot Kate Hardy and rush over to say hello—it’s been as a lovely result of this celebration that we’ve got to know each other over top secret arrangements about presents, and although we’re now pretty familiar with each other’s musical tastes, families, writing habits, chocolate addictions and ideal men, until this moment we’ve never actually spoken! Stand there chatting happily to her and feeling like I’m in a romance version of the World Book Day event at the children’s school when everyone had to come as a famous author, as a succession of my writing heroines (including Susan Stephens, Michelle Reid and Jacqueline Baird) drift past on the way into dinner.
The tables have book names instead of numbers—we’re on Game Of Hazard, which instantly proves to be great fun as we all introduce ourselves and admire the couple in the throes of tormented passion on our book cover (indeed, we admire it so much that we decide it would be an excellent idea to re-create it for the disposable camera placed on our table. Can see that Kate may be in a position for a bit of very lucrative blackmail once the pictures are developed.) The party girl herself looks stunning, and when she comes over to our table to say hello I make Him take a photograph of her glorious shoes for Amanda Ashby, who shares Kate’s perfect taste in accessories and will, I know, be both impressed by and envious of these....
After an utterly delicious main course we are invited to move tables, and I reluctantly say goodbye to Game of Hazard and head over to The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife, where Abby Green, Julie Cohen, Anna Lucia and Kate Hardy are hanging out. Shortly after I arrive pudding does too, and I feel this is one of those spookily perfect moments—a happy combination of crème brulee, writing goddesses and waiters coming round with champagne. The speeches begin, and because of the shedloads of talent in the Walker camp, mainly take the form of poems, which I intend to beg her to reproduce on her website as they are fab. They summarise perfectly, in various ways, the tone of the evening, but definitely need appreciating again for their own sakes (please Kate!).
After this Kate herself gets up, and it’s entirely typical that everything she says is in praise of others. Then, although this is her night, she continues a tradition she began some years ago and gives out heart necklaces to those of her ‘virgins’ (writers who she has supported through the RNA new writers scheme) who’ve achieved publication. Trish Wylie, Natasha Oakley, Anna Lucia are all presented with beautiful be-ribboned bags, and are given a hug by Kate. And then she is walking towards me, and even though I was never a virgin (what??), she has a bag for me too, and I’m overwhelmed with disbelief and delight. It’s an unforgettable moment, and an extraordinarily lovely gesture. Open the delicate gold box to find a necklace of flame-orange Venetian glass, perfectly chosen and utterly beautiful.
(A hug and a heart for Trish Wylie....)
Finally it’s our turn to show our appreciation to Kate. Kate Hardy has masterminded the purchase and presentation of our joint gift, and does a wonderful job of giving it to Kate and telling her how special she is. By this stage the batteries in our camera have long since conked out, but Susan Stephens has a ringside seat and captures the moment here! (you may have to scroll down..)
After a gorgeous breakfast the next morning the multi-talented Trish Wylie is brave and patient enough to try to explain the rudiments of website construction to my husband. I know when I’m out of my depth and enjoy a lovely conversation with Julie Cohen’s gorgeous baby. Then it’s time to say goodbye... and THANK YOU to Kate and the BM for a wonderful, wonderful time.
He drives home and I doze. At some point as we speed through Derbyshire the sun breaks through and I reach up to touch my heart necklace. The glass is heavy and has absorbed the warmth of my skin. How appropriate, and how very typical of Kate-- a warm heart.