Friday, 29 June 2007


I love this word. I use it all the time.

Today I am trying to go suddenly cold-turkey.

But how will I ever reach my 2 000 word target without putting 5 suddenlys on a page??

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Kit Kat Pandas

Here it is-- the perfect illustration of my relationship with The Muse.

(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

What happened to summer?

This afternoon sees daughter #2's first performance of 'Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo', which seems gloriously appropriate for the vile weather we're having at the moment. Had to negotiate ankle-deep floods on the path up to school this morning, but at least by the time the daughters were delivered into the classroom, for once their socks were not noticeably less white than anyone else's. An unexpected bonus.

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

Happy Bunny

Muffin the rabbit (who is so stupid he actually makes Ruby look like Einstein) has finally worked out how to escape his very makeshift run and is spotted by Daughter #3 cavorting joyfully on the lawn (unmown and fabulously meadow-like) at breakfast time. Daughter #1-- his owner-- is beside herself, and instantly enlists us all to round him up.

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

Longest day

But, let's face it, they all seem pretty endless at the moment, which is what comes of getting up at dawn and writing until after midnight. Tonight, however, will see me prising myself away from my bleak and bitter hero to drink champagne with my far more well-adjusted husband.

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

Costume Drama

Daughter #1 has been picked to take part in a history event at school today on the French Revolution, and informed me casually yesterday that she needs to wear 'French peasant' clothes. Having spent a large proportion of the weekend wrestling with glue, tissue paper, sequins and pipe cleaners to produce a butterfly costume for Daughter #2 to wear in the school production of Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo, this news does not come at a good time. I embark upon an impassioned rant which highlights the importance of planning ahead and the need for effective communication, and draws her attention to the fact that all her clothes are emblazoned with slogans (probably the modern equivalent of 'Storm the Bastille', but inauthentic nonetheless). She looks at me with deep disdain and says 'Chill out mum, I'll just wear something of yours.'

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

Last weekend in Lincoln

Stress-level is a little more moderate today, thanks to wine-bath-and-Sicilian combo last night, so am now ready to post the full low-down on last weekend’s goings on in Lincoln at the celebrations for Kate Walker’s 50th book!

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....)

(.... And one for me too! )

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..)
The rest of the evening passes in a happy blur, and takes on a slightly surreal aspect as the names on covers of favourite books suddenly come to life like the playing cards in Alice in Wonderland. I am so glad to have the chance to talk to Abby Green, who is my ‘big sister’ in the Presents family, having come in a couple of books ahead of me, and is every bit as lovely as her books. We move through to the bar and I sit with Kate Hardy and Michelle Styles and wish I had a notebook with me as they dispense wisdom and brilliant advice. But it’s getting late and I’m suddenly hugely tired...
(Kate Hardy, me, and some bloke we picked up.
Does it look a bit like we're fighting over him?)

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.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

I hardly dare say this

But I think the website is working now.

As a reward I'm going to drink wine in the bath with Kate Walker's Red-Hot Sicilian.

When will I ever learn...?

...not to attempt to do things myself which I'm seriously clueless about? I should have known after the wallpapering the bathroom experience that some things are just best left to the professionals. Hair cutting is one of those things (as my daughters will testify) and website construction is another.

It's been a grim week of late nights, tears and many, many rude words. If you've just come over here from Scribes, you'll know that Poppy Bear has been staying with us this week, so I think she'll have to go through a thorough programme of brainwashing before she can be allowed back into polite company. Half an hour with easycare colours at forty degrees should do it, I think...

The website still isn't ready because the host people (who couldn't host a third-rate game show on the graveyard shift at channel 5) keep telling me that the domain name isn't pointing at them. Now, I'm not by nature a violent person at all, but....
Anyway, thanks for coming to find me here-- and come back very soon for the promised coverage of Kate Walker's 50th book party!