Friday, 17 December 2010
I wonder if Ruby the cat will pull a cracker with me?
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Anyway, The Cold (both kinds) has just added another challenge in the annual game we call 'Getting Ready for Christmas'. Every year as I struggle to fit in work, basic I domestic duties, shopping and queueing in the post office around attending nativity plays, carol concerts and making cheese and pineapple cubes for 50 children for the class party it strikes me that this does have real potential as an actual board game and I resolve to make up a prototype and send it off to industry insiders the moment I have time. It'll be marketed at women, obviously, and will include things like 'Make your own mince pies - go forward 3 spaces' and 'Fail to find anything remotely flattering to wear for husband's office Christmas party - miss a turn'. 'Come down with revolting cold and bore everyone with your moaning' will also warrant a missed turn while 'Get your children to eat sprouts' and 'Post all presents before last possible dates and avoid paying three hundred pounds in special delivery rates' will earn you an extra turn and a champagne cocktail token. I'd really want Lauren Child to illustrate it. Anything else I should include?
I'll leave you to ponder that and retreat gratefully into Fictionland where my hero and heroine are at a wedding in sunny Italy. Let me know your ideas and we'll share the profits, OK?
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Oh yes. Not only is it snowing, in a charming, fluffy, Pinewood studios way but, dear blog readers, I can smugly reveal that I have survived my first assault on the shops, and even have a stash of carrier bags under the bed to show for it. Yesterday* saw the annual concert of the Young Voices Choir (not to be confused with New Voices, which I have constantly done over the past couple of months, much to the irritation of my daughters and no doubt editors and other writers to whom I've conversed on the subject of the recent M&B contest) at the MEN arena in Manchester in which the daughters’ primary school always take part. Over the years this event has become a sort of seasonal starter’s whistle in my mind; the children are whisked away to warm up their vocal chords and us mums are deposited in the centre of Manchester with an entire day and a whole lot of extremely yummy shops at our disposal. As a campaign veteran (the t-shirt worn by daughter #3 yesterday says Young Voices 2003 on it and has been worn by both sisters) I now know that it’s a mistake to slip into Harvey Nichols champagne bar too early, so held off until we had more bags than we could comfortably carry and had spent more money than we could comfortably afford (and had tried on more perfume in Selfridges than was perhaps quite sociable. But at least it meant we could spread all our shopping out nicely.)
Anyway, after getting back at midnight last night and waking up to thick snow this morning, today has had a funny kind of suspended-reality feeling that has been most un-conducive to getting stuck into the next book, and most conducive to getting stuck into the stash of posh Harvey Nicks mince pies I bought as presents. Oh dear. (Am clearly very closely in touch with my inner cavewoman and compelled by a primitive instinct to lay down winter fat to keep out savage cold. However, since cavewomen were not burdened with the task of buying three thousand Christmas presents or fitting into jeans, I probably should pay more attention to my outer 21st century writer-with-a-deadline-and-half-a-stone-to-lose and step away from the HN foodhall bags.)
Monday, 22 November 2010
Usually the silence in the aftermath of a deadline means my brain has left the building along with the book and I've done nothing interesting enough to report to my own husband, never mind the blogosphere at large. However, on this occasion I don't even have that excuse, since last week I went down to London and spent a lovely afternoon drinking tea with my editor and talking books, projects, possibilities and Kiera Knightley (not sure how we got onto that subject) before going to gorgeous RNA Winter Party. Abby Green had found us a gem of a hotel in the shadow of Big Ben, a stone's throw away from the luscious library of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers where the party was held and Heidi Rice joined us for a drink and a plate of fish and chips (literally - one plate, 3 forks. Classy girls, us.) in the bar downstairs before we sashayed round there. Met up with Natalie Rivers, Fiona Harper, Sharon Kendrick as well as a handful of lovely M&B editors and numerous fantastically cool people (Hello Rachael! Hello Jude!) I had a long-awaited chance to catch up with Margaret James, whose delicious book The Silver Locket was responsible for making me so unsociable on holiday at half term. All in all it was a really good evening. (I'm choosing to blank out the painful five minutes when naughty Abby and I were completely incapacitated with giggles over some of the titles on the library shelves. Honestly. I'm 40 not 14. She is a Very Bad Influence. I'm going to get my mum to write a note saying I'm not allowed to be her partner again.)
Moving swiftly on (and assuming a serious, professional expression) I also have book news. Tristan and Lily’s story – Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride is coming out in the US in January 2011 under the far nicer title The Society Wife, and the other day the UPS man brought me a big box of author copies. So, if you’re in a part of the world where Tristan and Lily haven’t previously ventured drop me a line (including your postal address) via the website sometime this week and I’ll put your name into a draw for one of five books.
I should also mention that Her Last Night Of Innocence, which is a December release, is now available in the UK. You might recognize this as the work formerly known as The Book That Would Not Die, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog (or as regular as you can be when I only update it once every Preston Guild) you might remember how much fun I had writing it (clue: a bit less than being tied to a chair and forced to watch wall-to-wall Hollyoaks for seven months) By the time it was finished I’d lost all perspective on it and thought I might just quietly ignore its release date. However, I’m not sure that’s either very mature or, as a professional strategy, very impressive, so – heartened by the fact that it’s been in the no 1. Spot on the M&B website for the last couple of weeks I’m going to crack open the box of copies that’s lurking under the sofa in my office and a send few of those out too. Email me with your address if you’d like one.
(*Warning: Please don't be fooled by the cover. At no point do Cristiano and Kate while away the evening with a hand of cards, nor is Cristiano in the fourth form at school, despite appearing in his uniform on the front. )
My final piece of exciting news is that I have finally summoned the confidence to end a miserable two-year relationship with my last vacuum cleaner, and yesterday, after prolonged lobbying from the daughters, replaced it with one of these.
The theory was that even they might be moved to take an interest in dust-removal with a machine that’s pink and has eyelashes, but actually it’s so lovely I want to play with it all by myself. The guinea pigs will just have to shiver a while longer. I’m off to hoover under my bed.
Monday, 8 November 2010
Friday, 22 October 2010
So, before I go what I need to know is, what’s your process and have you learned to accept it?
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Anyway, in lieu of a proper report I'll leave you with some of the pitifully few photos I remembered to take...
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Monday, 6 September 2010
On the same subject, this Thursday sees my contribution to the search for Mills & Boon’s next signing with a special library event in which you can (hopefully) find out the highs, lows, facts, figures, dos and don’ts you need to know about writing for the world’s best-loved romance publisher. The cupcakes are ordered, the library ladies are prepared, and there are even a couple of spaces left (At least there were on Friday – you can check by phoning Nantwich library 01270 375361. But don’t put it off, in the manner of uber-procrastinator me, because they were down to the last few tickets!)
If you’re coming to the event from out of the area and don’t know your way around do drop me an email (via website mailbox) and I’ll get back to you with Useful Info. (How hard it can be to find your way around a town the size of the average B&Q superstore I don't know. But email me anyway!)
Friday, 3 September 2010
Last night, in between searching for pens that work, hockey socks, Jane Eyre and ties, the daughters picked out the names of ten people who will be receiving copies of Emily's Innocence. Thanks to everyone who contacted me - wish I could send out copies to you all, but well done Caroline, Kelly, Kristy, Amanda G, Amanda C, Peggy, Jane, Denise, Jayne and Jacqueline. If you left your address I'll get your book in the post today, if you didn't I'll be emailing!
And at some point, I'm going to get my (mysteriously wider) ass into the White Chair of Creativity and write. And write and write and write...
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Anyway, moving away from Muffin’s Guilt and back to Emily’s Innocence - a big thank you to everyone who’s mailed so far with the answer to the question. It took a while to get my author copies, but when I did I got quite a few so I’m going to pick out ten names to send books to. If you are leaving an answer on the website, perhaps you could also leave your postal address too, to save time if yours is one of the names picked out (If you’ve already left your answer without an address don’t worry!)
It might seem a bit odd that I’m blogging about the background to this book when the plot and the characters came from an outline rather than from my own head. However, although the process of writing a book for a continuity series is very different from writing one in the ordinary run of things, it requires a HUGE amount of creative thinking to bring the characters to life and make them move naturally along the path carved out for them. I’ve said elsewhere that it feels like writing backwards. Usually I start with characters and flesh them out enough so that they themselves dictate the course of the action through their responses and choices, however, in a continuity you already know (broadly) what’s going to happen. You just have to make it work, and this means doing an awful lot of reading between the lines and thinking in the bath.
This was the first time I’ve ever created a fictional kingdom in one of my books, and it was huge fun. The only information I was given about Santosa was that it was ‘a small island principality off the coast of Brazil’, so the rest was up to me. A lovely couple of hours of cyber-tourism led me to the island of Fernando de Noronha and this became the inspiration for Santosa.
The view from exclusive Santosan restaurant,
The Purple Parrot...
...And the scene upon which Luis looks down
And the beach where Luciana's birthday party was held, with 'Rico's monument'...
I’ve blogged before (over at Nalini Singh’s blog *shameless namedrop*) about the way fairy tales have a habit of working their way into my books, and the story that echoed through this one was Red Riding Hood. It appeared from nowhere on the first page of the prologue, then dissolved into thin air again, only to resurface as the sexual tension mounted. I was a bit surprised by this, as it’s not a story in which I’d ever identified any strong romantic elements (unlike Beauty and the Beast, or Cinderella – both of which have influenced previous books) but I when I came to think about it, it was the darker aspects – fears of being powerless, preyed upon, devoured – which were relevant here. I had an image in my head while I was writing – a very precisely remembered illustration from a fairy tale book I had as a child, of endless tall black trees and a slender figure in a billowing scarlet cloak running through them (I wish I could find it now), and this totally informed the build up to the love scene between Luis and Emily. I love it when that kind of random-thought thing happens and guides the writing.
The other thing that forms the backdrop of a book is the music I listen to while I'm writing. Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson (pinched from daughter #2's itunes account) was Emily's theme song, while the mighty King's of Leon's Use Somebody was Luis's. Other songs on the playlist included All Saints Pure Shores (for its beachy Santosan vibe) Tiny Dancer (for obvious reasons) and a couple of songs by a band called Dexter Freebish Kate Hardy drew my attention to a couple of years ago now. And assorted other odd things that must have made sense at the time, at a particular stage of the book but haven't been given much of an ipod airing since (Stronger anyone? Didn't think so... It's a strange business, writing.)
I think the only other thing to say about writing this book was how fab it was to be working alongside other authors - both from a fangirl point of view, but also because of the support we gave each other. I was in regular, hand-holding contact with Kate Hewitt and Carole Mortimer and Sharon Kendrick and it really did make the whole thing seem like quite an adventure. The best bit of which is now, when I get to actually read the books I got such tantalising glimpses into back then! (Am currently LOVING Sharon's book, Kat's Pride. Kat is a fantastic heroine. And as for Carlos... *fans self* Off to read more...)
Keep those competition answers coming and I'll pick out names at the weekend!
Monday, 23 August 2010
When my editor first mentioned the idea of the Balfour series to me I was a pathetically easy-sell. ‘Big English country house… wealthy patriarch… wives, mistresses… eight daughters…’ ‘I’ll do it.’
I knew straight away that this was going to be exactly my kind of book, and I was even more excited when I got ‘the bible’ – a booklet detailing all the background, characters and story outlines for each of the sisters – through the post. Flicking through, finding the story that had my name on it and starting to read about Emily and Luis was a real heart-racing, hand-trembling moment because, in spite of my eagerness to be involved in the series there was a worry lurking in the dark recesses of my mind that I just wouldn’t connect with the story or characters I’d been given.
But the moment I read the phrase ‘incorrigible playboy bachelor’ I knew everything was going to be alright. As someone who has veered helplessly towards serious, tormented heroes in the past it felt like an absolute gift to be presented with the task of creating a shameless playboy and I started writing with great enthusiasm. Luis quickly sprang to life on the page with his sarcastic asides and wisecracking one-liners and I adored writing the bits with him in it. OK, let’s be honest – I just adored him. Here’s the face I based him on…
However, it was when I got to about the halfway mark in the book that I suddenly hit a wall and realized that, much as I was having a ball creating a wicked, unapologetically shallow hero with his mind permanently below his waist (or that of any passing beauty) I’d actually pretty much neglected to the ‘hero’ part of his job description. I’d always aimed to develop depth to him through the action of the book, but the way I’d written him that journey was simply going to be too long to accomplish in 250 pages! So, after a long and increasingly excited conversation with my editor one day I put down the phone and went back to the start, introducing a darker edge to Luis’s character and a more powerful motivating force behind his behaviour. The original story outline in 'the bible' specified that his older brother had died, leaving Luis as the reluctant heir to the Santosan throne. By taking that a step further and making Luis indirectly responsible (or so he sees it) for Rico’s death it opened up a whole goldmine of emotion for me to romp about in. (India Grey's Obvious Tip for Aspiring Writers – give yourself enough material to work with and it makes the whole business of getting words on the page a great deal easier!)
As for Emily, the outline specified that she was the adored baby of the family, ‘however, the indulgence of her father and her sisters has not ruined her character – she remains down-to-earth, beautiful and good, a stronger version of her graceful, kind-hearted mother.’ I have to admit when I read that my heart sank a little as it can be a challenge to create a heroine who is virtuous and sweet without making her come across like the annoying class swot. However, I decided Luis was my secret weapon here. He's exactly the kind of person who would address this head-on and voice all those issues directly, forcing Emily to confront the possiblity that her irreproachable values and high moral standards are just hypocrisy and naivite in disguise. Introducing this alternative perspective on Emily’s character early on made her feel more human to me, and from that point on I really bonded with her. Here’s how I pictured her…
It was in email conversations with Natalie Rivers and Michelle Styles that I explored the importance of ballet in relation to Emily's character, and it threw up some interesting points. Emily is regarded as a brilliant dancer, which implies a certain ease with her own body and openness to physical expression, yet these were the very things that her uptight character struggled with most. Call me sadistic, but I like to see a character struggle, and so it was this discrepancy which formed the core of Emily's conflict and the basis for her journey. Who better than louche, sexy Luis to help her overcome her inhibition?
So, that's a little introduction to the characters... come back on Thursday when I'll be talking about the background, setting and inspiration behind the story. In the meantime I'd like to make some inroads into this pile of author copies and send out the neat postcards I've had made. For a chance to get one email me via the website (there's a link somewhere over there <--- but it's got a bit lost amongst all the other stuff) and answer this simple question: How many Balfour sisters are there? (You can find the answer in the above ramble if you look closely enough!)
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
The weekend flew by in a warm blur of wine, nostalgia and laughs interspersed with the odd game of Swimming pool Egg and Spoon and Lawn Darts. I enjoyed an unprecedented level of success in the games this year (demonstrating particular finesse in the Spud Tossing event, though I say so myself) however, I have to admit that the fact that the Goths brought home bronze medals was largely down to my competitive, competent alpha-male team-mates (Thanks boys!) No room to bask in glory though as Gold went to Daughter #3 in Team C (Circus) and Silver went to Daughter #1 and my sister-in-law in Team M (Military - showing that you can be killer competitors while also looking like Cheryl Cole in the Fight for this Love video. How is that fair?)
Anyway, now we're home and they've returned to languishing in their bedrooms like consumptive Victorians while I trail around sorting out the aftermath of two camping trips like a below-stairs skivvy, I'm wondering if introducing some kind of competitive element into household chores will induce them to help? Speed Ironing, perhaps. Or Hoover Relay. Or how about The 'Pick up all your Stuff from the Floor before I take it to the Charity Shop' Challenge? Think this might be my only chance of getting back to my poor neglected book...
So, what's been happening while I've been away? Fill me in on all the news!
Monday, 26 July 2010
- Books I’ve read recently
Particularly Abby Green’s Breaking the Sheikh's Rules, which has gone right into my top ten Modern/Presents books somewhere around the number one slot thanks to a combination of a really sexy hero, the most appealing and adorable heroine and the kind of setting that makes me sigh with nostalgic satisfaction. I’m not usually a huge fan of sheikh books for all sorts of reasons, but this one hooked me in on page one with its lush Irish backdrop and the horses – there was something about it that whizzed me right back to the first Mills & Boon books I ever read as a teenager and reminded me exactly why I fell in love with them. I’ve also just finished Michelle Reid’s Balfour book – Mia’s Scandal, which features another really fabulous, memorable heroine. It was - predictably - gorgeously written, pacy, sexy and satisfying, as well as being really interesting to see bits of the wider Balfour puzzle slotting into place, and find characters I’d got to know pretty well pop up in a different setting. Made me want to go back and re-visit my Balfour book, so it’s pretty convenient that…
- My author copies finally arrived!
Emily and Luis are in the building. I, however, will not be for much longer as we are about to go on holiday, making it extremely bad timing to blog in detail about the book and do a contest. Gah! Will get to it when we get home again, but in the meantime, talking of contests…
- Mills & Boon’s New Voices Contest has just been launched.
If you have ever harboured any ambition to write for the world’s biggest and best-loved romance publisher this is a fab chance to give it a go. My take on it is that it’s not so much about winning an i-pad or an editor – though one lucky, talented person is going to wake up with an almighty champagne hangover at the end of it all – but about being given that crucial little push to start putting your dreams in motion. I often wonder how long it would have taken me to stop faffing around and finding excuses if Penny Jordan hadn’t told me to go away and write a chapter and send it to her within two weeks, so if you’re an uber-procrastinator like me you can look on this as your call to action. Start writing over the summer, ready to put something up on the website in September (under a pseudonym if you’re shy) and take advantage of a whole lot of free and honest critiquing. (Which might hurt, but will be a taste of things to come if you get accepted!) And tied into the contest is...
- The event I’m doing at Nantwich Library on September 9th.
I’m doing away with the workshop thing and am going for a much more relaxed, informal discussion on Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Mills & Boon Romance (And Possibly Several Things That You Don’t) so Nantwich Library is the place to be if you have burning questions about lines, love scenes, layering conflict, or anything else – even if it doesn’t begin with ‘L’. I'd really love to see you, if you're remotely thinking of coming. (I think you need to phone the library to book places - details are here on the romance is not dead website.) I’m fully intending to max up the girly afternoon tea opportunity, and am really looking forward to doing my first M&B event on home turf, in the library where I used to spend Saturday mornings sitting on the mustard-coloured scratchy carpet reading The Wild Swans (my absolute favourite book for years – I borrowed it so many times I don’t know why my mum didn’t just buy me a copy for Christmas. Sniff.) Anyway, on the subject of home turf, daughters 1 and 2 came with me last week to the launch of…
- An exhibition in our local (gem of a) museum entitled Nantwich People Past and Present. Penny Jordan and I are both included, along with a surprising amount of interesting and inspiring people for such a tiny rural market town. I am in a corner, nose to nose with Isabella Blow. And not many people can say that.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Luckily, thanks to my writing guru Michelle Styles I have one...
Generally I’m an all or nothing person – a ‘shut myself away and turn into a hero-obsessed, sleep-deprived, what-day-is-it?’ type person, or someone who thinks “oh well, only three more hours until I need to make a start on dinner, so there’s no point in switching the computer on today" so writing during the holidays was always going to be tricky. A while ago Michelle blogged about a method she was experimenting with, of writing in word-chunks. She’d found that 750 words at a time worked for her, but suggested I try a smaller number, like 250. And because she is wise and wonderful and I was prepared to give anything a go, I did.
And ladies, so far I have to report that it’s working like a charm. I wake up, write 250 words (which takes about twenty minutes) Go get breakfast, while my mind ticks over the book not the squalor in the kitchen, then go write another 250. Have a shower, while dialogue and details go round in my head, and write another 250, and so on whenever I can through the day. I’m hardly breaking any writing speed records, but I’m not completely neglecting the little darlings either and am keeping the book fresh in my head and moving on the page. Of course, we’re only on Day 4, and I still have the challenge of keeping it up while packing for a week’s camping in France, dealing with the washing when we get back, getting ready for the next trip (which involves both camping and fancy dress costumes) and simultaneously providing amusement (well, providing food and clean clothes anyway) for the children. (Deep yogic breathing and smile of forced serenity....) But I think it might just keep me sane.
Is anyone else juggling the roles of writer and Person I.C.O Junior Entertainment this summer? How are you managing, and do you fancy giving the 250 word challenge a go? Let me know!
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
So how come she was the one I ended up sitting with in A&E for FIVE HOURS yesterday? And is she the only person to manage to break her arm watching sports day?
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
It’s been such a long time coming because my web-slave is a very good friend who has been going through the mill with family issues, so any time we have spent together in the last six or seven months has been more about wine and sympathy than brisk professionalism (always a stretch for me.) Anyway, after a couple of evenings, a Thai takeaway, several tubes of Pringles and several more cans of whatever lager it was that the supermarket were trying to get rid of after England's dismal exit from the World Cup… my husband and he have nailed it. (I think. I'll send chocolate to anyone who spots any mistakes!) Watch out for info on the Balfour book coming soon…
(Although I’m beginning to think I imagined ever writing the Balfour book. Still no sign of author copies yet, and no word on their whereabouts. Will keep sleuthing…)
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
So, some of the things that occured to me as I lay on the fold-out bed in daughter #2’s room and didn't sleep last night were…
1. That I really should clean the children's rooms more often. Particularly the skirting board behind the dressing table.
2. That my hero probably should discover the truth about his father earlier in the book. I originally assumed he would find this out at the end, but maybe it might be better if he knew all along?
3. That I need to make a vet's appointment for Muffin the rabbit and the guinea pigs to have their nails clipped. Because I am NOT doing it myself with the nail clippers, ever again. (Who would have thought such a tiny foot would bleed so much?)
3. That there are only eight more writing days until the summer holidays. And that's not including Sports Day, Leaver's Assembly, daughter #3's End-of-Term Play, Sick-Child days or Small Animal Care appointments.
4. That my Balfour book (see gorgeous cover, below) is out in a couple of weeks and I haven't had any author copies yet. Which is a shame because I haven’t done a contest and giveaways for ages and I'm definitely going to with this one.
So, all in all not a wasted night then. I just wish I had the energy to put any of the above into action...
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
With this story I feel like I’m walking in thick fog, but I’m not worried because I know the characters very well and I trust them to steer a good path through it. I love the heroine particularly much. She’s called Sophie and she reminds me a little of Sarah in Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper but with lots more confidence and a much naughtier sense of humour. The hero is a little more elusive – but deliberately so, which is OK. The key words for his character are ‘distant’ and ‘disapproving’, and the closest I can find to a physical representation of the man in my head is this one…(partly for his upright English looks, and partly for the qualities of the character he plays here!)
The theme tune for the book is this one (the key line being ‘Living alone is all I’ve ever done well…’)
Friday, 25 June 2010
Monday, 21 June 2010
Thursday, 17 June 2010
Stepped off the train at York, buoyed up by champagne and smoked salmon and slightly disorientated - it was like a kind of top notch restaurant you might find in a Harry Potter novel, where you enter from one place and find yourself in entirely another when you come out. My brother lives in York and we spent the day shopping and hanging out with him, so actually the destination was pretty cool, (specially as I got to pick up my delicious niece and nephew from school and have an hour with them before we had to head back to the Train of Indulgence) but that's beside the point. Having spent a lovely couple of hours in the company of a group of interesting, wise and wonderful women at the National Trust writing workshop I did on Sunday, and talking about the road to publication, the idea of enjoying the journey in its own right was definitely uppermost in my mind.
One of the several squillion differences between the Orient Express and the 17.09 Virgin Express service from Euston to Crewe (aside from the slightly sticky seats and the commuter with his thigh pressed right up against yours in the tightly packed carriage) is the much slower speed at which it travels, and the way that allows you to notice so much more - like the lupins growing wild at the side of the track, and the shadows of clouds moving across the big green fields of unripe wheat. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that getting somewhere quickly (ie to publication, for the purposes of this clumsy analogy, which is directed at the ladies I met who are waiting for editor feedback / trying to muster the strength and energy to start again and submit / facing the prospect of beginning a new writing project in a new genre) is not necessarily the best way. Travel slowly, indulgently, and notice stuff on the way. And don't just save the champagne for when you get there either. Celebrate the journey.
* I would have put this post up yesterday, but spent most of the day (without exaggeration) trying to work out how to get the photos I took on my phone onto my computer. Only when my husband had spent the entire evening trying to do the same did we conclude that the installation disk that came with my phone is faulty. 'Dear Samsung, you owe me 9 hours of my life back and a stress-reducing hot stones massage in a technology-free spa in the Himalayas. Could you also explain to my editor that another writing day lost was your fault, not mine. Thank you. Yours in extreme frustration and techno-loathing, India Grey.'
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
(...although having to drive across two fields to reach the road and getting out of the car twice to open and close gates would make the school run unbearably complicated. Would have to home educate, or better still - send the children out to work on the land while I wrote lyrical poetry based heavily on A.E. Housman.)
Anyway, back to the weekend. Some friends came down on Saturday evening and we ate outside as the sun slipped behind the hill and the fields gradually dissolved into velvety darkness. The daughters had decided on a formal dress code and had raided the dressing up box for my old University ball dresses and hand-me-down outfits from weddings past, while the men dusted off their dinner jackets. I wore a dress from years ago that had to be held together with safety pins and high heels that kept sinking into the lawn.
However, on reflection it would have been a justifiable purchase after all, since I’m giving a workshop on writing romance this coming Sunday at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill, which is a place so steeped in Victorian ambience that it makes you want to take up sewing samplers and swigging laudanum. I'm not sure if there are any places left, but if you're in the area and would like to come along you can find out the details, and the number to call, here. (I might not have bought the bonnet, but I can't promise I won't turn up in my corset...)
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Will probably just finish sorting out the cupboard under the stairs instead. Denial always such a comfort at times like this.
Friday, 28 May 2010
When you sign up the first thing it asks you, in what is no doubt meant to be an encouragingly matey way is 'What's happening?' The only response I can think of to that is 'I haven't got a clue.'
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
1. Where were you five years ago?
- In May 2005 we were still - just - living in our old house and I was feeling nostalgic and wistful about packing up to move here in mid-June. Daughter #3 was about to start Big School, so the packing inevitably involved getting rid of vast quantities of small pink items of clothing and baby toys.
- Hovering around the computer (ancient hunk of beige space junk that was finally consigned to the skip in the council tip in January) to check emails 58 times a day and see if an editor at Richmond had got back to me about my partial submission (the one that grew up to become The Italian’s Defiant Mistress a year later)
- Working, on a very part-time and reluctant basis, at Laura Ashley.Camping out in the new house while we ripped out the kitchen and knocked down walls.
Writing in bed on a laptop with Ruby the Airhead Cat while builders trooped in and out downstairs.
2. What is/was on your things to do list?
Back then my things to do list would have looked something like this…
- Finish packing
- Finish unpacking
- Finish decorating (just one room would be an achievement, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed it. When I decorate there’s always a length of skirting board or a bit of doorframe that retains its yellowing gloss paint as I always lose interest before the end.)
- Finish working at Laura Ashley
- Finish book
3. What 5 snacks do you enjoy?
- Toast and honey
- Tunnocks Tea cakes – not just because they’re utterly delicious and surely that marshmallowy stuff inside consists mainly of air and is therefore virtually calorie-free, but because their retro red and silver striped wrappers add a jaunty air to any teatime table. Although mainly I scoff them straight from the biscuit tin.
- Dark chocolate ginger biscuits.
- Chocolate-covered salted pretzels (Trenda, I love you)
- Carrot sticks*
(*one of these may not be strictly true, but has been added in the interests of promoting a healthy balanced diet to the readers of this blog.)
- This house
- The big Victorian house with the Minton tiled hallway and the collection of traffic cones in the front garden, at University in Manchester
- The studio flat He and I shared when we first got together that was so small you could make a cup of tea in the ‘kitchen’ without getting out of bed
- The 1930s house we bought because we loved its original period features, and could afford it because the estate agent called them ‘scope for modernization.’
- This house again.
5. What 5 things would you do if you were a billionaire?
I’d really love a little cottage in the middle of nowhere (as someone who is incapable of thinking far enough ahead to shop for an entire week I’m not cut out for life too far from civilization long term so a permanent move would be off the cards) but would find it impossible to choose between the wilds of Scotland, the Northumberland coast, or lush green Herefordshire cider-country, so this would be the ideal solution.
- Pay for Ruby the Airhead Cat to go into an expensive Rehabilitation Facility for Serial Bird Killers.
- Only ever wear cashmere socks.
- Still probably become an obsessive, paranoid recluse who would be convinced all my friends only like me for my money and would alienate everyone by forcing embarrassingly large amounts of cash on them all the time. My children would probably turn into despotic divas with unhealthy addictions to plastic surgery and online gambling and I’d end up living alone in my caravan with Ruby the Reformed Serial Bird Killer Cat and my collection of cashmere socks.
And that’s why I don’t bother with the lottery.
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
I had intended to get stuck in long before now, but the past week has been entirely swallowed up in catching up with things on the very neglected home front. It’s been absolute heaven to wake up in the morning (in clean sheets) and to have nothing more urgent to contemplate than sweeping up fallen apple blossom and wisteria petals, painting the mirror I bought for the daughters’ bathroom six months ago and lounge around on the sofa reading Michelle Styles’ fabulous latest – Compromising Miss Milton. (I suppose that wasn’t strictly catching up on stuff on the home front, but whilst doing it I did notice that there was a pre-sucked chupa chups lolly cemented down the back of the cushions so it was a useful domestic exercise, as well as being one in gorgeous writing and delicious characterization – wry, witty Adam Ravensworth is surely one of Michelle’s sexiest creations.)
I also spent a larger than usual proportion of time watching TV, where the whole ‘who’s going to be Prime Minister’ game was unfolding. I can’t help thinking that for several days Gordon Brown must have just been willing the other two to agree on something so he could hand over the keys to number 10 and throw his vast collection of red ties onto the woodburning stove in some lovely little cottage by the sea somewhere. And poor Sam Cam… I’m sure it says more about me than it does about her, but from my vantage point on the sofa with the biscuit tin I’m sure I saw the glint of resignation and despair in her eyes as she stepped through that black front door into a life where ‘family downtime’ is going to be an abstract concept. Incidentally, daughters 2 and 3 are passingly gratified to have had a close encounter with the new Prime Minister (who visited their school the day after that first TV debate) although they’re both a bit nonplussed about why he got the job and not Gary Barlow, since he had the distinct charisma edge.
But anyway, the new government is in and the new book has been started. Now begins a period of tough decisions and hard work for both me and them. And spending cuts too. (Deliberately not using the 'tightening the belt' metaphor for this, as thanks to the stone I've put on recently this is a physical impossibility. Ho hum.)