Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year!

I love the time between Christmas and New Year. For sheer decadence and hedonism the last days of the old year surely can rival the last days of the Roman Empire, and the week has passed in a blur of lie-ins, hot baths, chocolate and champagne—all the more blissful for being shared with lovely family we don’t see nearly enough and great friends. (With the exception of the hot baths, by the way, which weren’t shared with anyone but Kate Hardy’s lovely book ‘One Night One Baby’. Heaven can wait.)

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

Happy (sniff) Christmas

Every Christmas there comes a moment when all the stress and the panic fade, and I’m left just feeling deeply, ridiculously sentimental. Getting up early for a bit of quiet working time this morning I watched a fat rose-pink sun rising over the frosty garden and that was enough to trigger it, so (sniffing loudly) I want to say thank you so much to everyone for all your friendship, support and laughs this year.

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

Wedding Anniversary

It all seems hilariously naïve and foolish now, but fifteen years ago when we got married we thought that a Christmas wedding would be romantic.

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

Joys of the Season

Yesterday we finally succumbed to juvenile pressure and put up the Christmas tree.

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.

Ha ha.

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

Should have bought more tea towels...

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the
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!

Since I have three daughters, I had to give them all a chance to pick a name, so Theresa and Margaret will also be recieving copies of the book. Not the same as Daniel Craig, I know!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Don't Forget...

Tomorrow I'm picking a winner for Daniel Craig. Or the next best thing to him anyway.They maybe sold out everywhere, but I finally have one of these in my hot little hands, and will be sending it out to a randomly picked person who emails the answer to this question here.

Which (young!) actor was the inspiration for blond, beautiful Angelo in The Italian's Captive Virgin?
The answer can be found on my website-- thanks to everyone who's already entered!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

India the Unready.

While flicking through a magazine in the dentist's waiting room yesterday I discovered that, according to their ‘Countdown to Christmas’ feature today is the day I should be preparing my homemade stuffing to put in the freezer for the big day.

(**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

Competition Mark 3

I know, madness isn't it? But I had promised to give away a copy of The Italian's Captive Virgin and the infamous Daniel Craig tea towel (which apparently, are so hard to get hold of it would almost be easier to get the man himself to come and help with the washing up on Christmas day...)

(Ooh... hold that thought. But forget the washing up...)

So, this one's going to be a real quickie. The question is whose face was the inspiration for the character of Angelo in the book? Just email the answer here to be entered-- but hurry because I'm going to pick a winner next Friday 14th December, to have some chance of the prize arriving by Christmas.

In other news, I am so enjoying Michelle Styles's A Christmas Wedding Wager, and if you're shopping over the next few days would recommend/insist that you slip a copy into your basket for fabulous festive reading. Not only is it gorgeously atmospheric, with a story and characters that hook you in from the start, but it's just so beautifully, beautifully crafted. Take this bit for example...

'I don't believe in romance Mr. Stanton, do you?' Emma looked hard at Jack.
'If I did not believe, I would not be building bridges across impossible chasms,' came the enigmatic reply. 'Sometimes you can do nothing but believe.'

What a wonderful, subtle metaphor for the unfolding relationship between two people who once shared a connection, but who have been estranged from each other for years. And what a hero Jack is.

*sigh*. Maybe I shouldn't have started reading it until all the shopping was done...

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Big Day Out, and Competition Mark 2

Have delegated the school run for daughters 1 and 3 this morning, as #2 and I are suffering from an excess of excitement and exhaustion following a big day out in Manchester yesterday. Her school were taking part in the Young Voices choir event at the MEN arena in the evening, and we didn't get home until well after midnight, so I'm letting her sleep in.

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!
In anticipation of our January/February releases, Natalie Anderson, Christina Hollis, India Grey, LynneMarshall, and Kate Hewitt are offering a fabulous contest with the following books as prizes:
The Italian’s Chosen Wife by Kate Hewitt
All Night with the Boss by Natalie Anderson
The Italian's Captive Virgin by India Grey
One Night in His Bed by Christina Hollis
Single Dad, Nurse Bride By Lynne Marshall
To enter, please visit our sites to discover the name of the heroine in each book listed above. Send an e-mail to anyone of us with your answers, and you’ll automatically be entered into a drawing!
Enter byJanuary 1; winners will be drawn on January 15
It's all too much excitement for me this morning. Think I'll slope off back to bed with Michelle Styles' A Christmas Wedding Wager. Certainly deserve it after all that hard work yesterday...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Competition Mark 1

It must be that time of year...

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...

If you're even remotely thinking of one day venturing into writing romance, you've probably already seen this contest over at the fabulous iheartpresents blog. It involves writing a synopsis and the first chapter of a novel for either the Modern or Modern Extra (soon to be called Modern Heat) series, and not only is the prize completely amazing (input on your writing from an editor for a whole year), but the advice there, from Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott herself, is too.

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!!