Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Where was I?

Ooops. I disappeared into a completely imaginary world for a while there—sorry! Am having so much fun researching my new book, I can’t tell you. (Literally I’m afraid, since it’s all under wraps for the moment.) But just let me say that man, do I have some cool youtubage all lined up for you soon...

Had to tear myself away from smouldering Argentinian men yesterday to write a synopsis, which I still find about as easy and enjoyable as swimming uphill through cold porridge. All I can say is, if you recently entered the iheartpresents Instant Seduction competition and you actually achieved this most difficult of feats without recourse to hard drugs or therapy, huge respect. Give yourself a hug and go and help yourself to a biscuit immediately.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Fairy Cakes

Mary left a comment on the last post asking for a recipe for fairy cakes, and as they’re one of the few things I can cook with any kind of expertise I’m only too happy to oblige! (Just for the record, the other things I’m good at are profiteroles, cheese on toast and vodka jelly.)

When I had little ones at home I used to make at least 3 batches of these a week, just because it was the ideal way to pass a rainy afternoon (or a sunny one to be honest, as I’m hardly the outdoors type) I suspect, Mary, that you know these as cupcakes, but I’ll pass on the recipe anyway because it’ll help me feel domesticated and capable and distract me from the fact that I haven’t cleared away the breakfast things yet.

I think they’re probably called fairy cakes over here because they’re miniature and fairy sized, but to make them extra specially girly and fairy-like, I sprinkle them with this stuff (Edible glitter-- find it on the side menu!)

Anyway, here’s the recipe...

Put 125g butter, 125g of caster sugar, 125g self raising flour, 2 large eggs (laid in leafy glades by extremely happy hens fed on organic museli, of course) and half a teaspoon of almond essence (as long as no-one eating these has a nut allergy... if so use vanilla) in a big bowl and whisk it all up with an electric hand whisk. Add in 2ish tablespoons of milk to make the mixture a bit softer, then put a small amount of the mixture into 24 (ish) little cupcake cases. Bake for about 12-15 minutes at about 180 C (gas mark 6)
When they’re cool ice them (with icing sugar mixed into a paste with a few teaspoons of water) and sprinkle on the fairy dust glitter while the icing is still tacky. Top with dolly mixtures or, for my favourite old-fashioned, storybook look, half a glace cherry.

(Oh, now I feel like Ma Larkin, and am feeling the urge to go and bake bread and sew curtains. Better go and look at some more hot men until the urge passes...!)

Monday, 18 February 2008

I'm back!

... after a lovely half term, during which I didn't do a stroke of work and had more sleep than I've had in the past two months put together probably. I also

♥ became the mother of a teenager
♥ took the girls for lunch at a sushi bar, and discovered that children will eat anything (even raw eel) if it comes on prettily coloured plates and is delivered to them by conveyor belt
♥ stayed in my pyjamas until 3pm one day
♥ Read Fiona Harper’s gorgeous book ‘English Lord Ordinary Lady’ (un-coincidentally, the same day as the pyjamas until 3pm thing happened...)
♥ spoke to my editor and found out that Olivier’s book has been titled Taken for Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure. Love that!
♥ made—at various times— 24 valentines fairy cakes, 36 chocolate chip cookies, 1 loaf of banana tea bread (to use up the bananas that no-one was eating because of all the fairy cakes and cookies) and 1 chocolate orange birthday cake.
♥ watched Penny Jordan being glamorous, articulate and gracious on the Richard and Judy talk show, with another of my romance writing heroines Jilly Cooper.
♥ finally got around to tidying the cupboard under the bathroom sink.

Children are now back at school so the house seems very quiet and (apart from the cupboard under the bathroom sink) very messy. However, am going to ignore that and begin researching my new book. It’s going to involve a lot of tea, toast and youtube...

(er, that's the research process, not the book!)

Monday, 11 February 2008

Abby and India’s Glamorous Thursday

10 am. My mother takes Abby and I to the station in her small, very clean, Renault Clio—nearly killing us all on a roundabout. This is not a very glamorous start to our trip, but things improve when we get down to the platform (early— because my mother is like that ). Abby buys a copy of Vogue and then hot chocolate and pain au chocolate for us (do you spot a theme there?). I decide that I am never leaving home without her, ever again.

1pm. London is bathed in golden sunshine as we take a cab to our hotel. The glamour stakes are rising by the second. The Mandeville boasts a doorman in an oversized scarlet coat, a lobby that looks like a cross between the starship enterprise and a Victorian gentleman’s club, and—as we discover when we reach our room—a bathroom door made of frosted glass.

4pm. We return from lunch and a trawl through Selfridges and Oxford street having purchased an eyeshadow and a packet of hairgrips between us. (A slight dip in the glamour quota here.) We lounge around on our beds for a while, fiddling with the TV and looking out of the window before Abby goes for a shower. I inform her that, when steamed up, the frosted glass becomes completely... unfrosted.

5.30pm. Lovely Natalie Rivers arrives just as we are finishing getting dressed, and we go down to the insanely stylish hotel bar for a drink before leaving. Perched on tall stools at the etched mirrored bar with its changing light display, we sip champagne and talk frenziedly about work, with all the animation of three women who spend long weeks alone with nothing but a computer screen for company.

6pm. I realise my camera has no batteries in it. (Therefore all the following pics are scrounged from Abby, on whom I'm blaming the bizarre sizing...)

6.45pm We walk across the road from the hotel, into Manchester Square. The Wallace Collection is lit up like a fairytale palace, with flaming torches on either side of the majestic doorway and the night is stained pink from the lights of the party inside. Two feathered flamingo-ladies on stilts welcome guests. Needle on the glam-ometer shoots up several notches.

7pm. Inside the atrium of the Wallace Collection it’s a bit like I imagine Paradise must be. Trees are hung with pink paper lanterns, Gorgeous, half-stripped butlers wander round distributing champagne and long-stemmed roses, and all my favourite people are there to talk to. I guess if I was being really picky I might substitute Alan Titchmarsh for Johnny Depp in my perfect paradise, but that just shows how shallow I am because lovely Alan does a great speech, makes us all laugh and is a real gentleman.

9 pm. The vast marble floor, which two hours ago was filled with people, is now almost empty as everyone has sought out one of the delicate wirework benches around the edge of the room to sit and rest their aching feet. I have caught up with old friends Sue Stephens, Julie Cohen, Fiona Harper and Sharon Kendrick as well as had the huge pleasure (and fan-girly excitement) of meeting Sarah Morgan and Chantelle Shaw for the first time. I have also had a chance to chat to the editors—including Tessa Shapcott, about a very exciting forthcoming project—and got hopelessly sticky and covered in (very unglamorous) crumbs eating oversized, Alice in Wonderland-style fairy cakes with a gorgeous man from Midas PR. It has been a fabulous party.

11pm. We are back in the Elle-Decoration-esque bar of our hotel, drinking champagne with wonderful Kate Walker and the ever-charming Babe Magnet, Trish Wylie (exhausted from a round of interviews and photo calls with all kinds of media giants) Fiona Harper and Natasha Oakley. We delve excitedly into our party bags, unearthing from layers of pink tissue books, magazines, pens, one of the brilliant new range of retro Mills and Boon greetings cards, a bookmark and calendar and most fabulous of all.... a bar of Galaxy chocolate. I am so hungry I am beginning to hallucinate about pizza.

Midnight. Up in our room we change into pyjamas and order room service. When I was little my ultimate idea of grown up decadence was eating chips in bed... Writing for Mills and Boon was one ambition fulfilled, and now I can tick another one off the list.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Hello from Abby Green!

Dear all, I am guest blogging from India Grey's lovely home in Cheshire. Very shortly we will be taking the train down to London and getting ready for the cocktail party to celebrate Mills and Boon's Centenary celebrations. I arrived yesterday from Dublin on a Ryanair flight which turned out to be a relatively painless experience - which can't always be said of Ryanair! And then last night we had dinner with the legendary Penny Jordan. It was my first time meeting her and she is absolutely lovely, it was such a thrill to meet the person whose books you've enjoyed for so long. She really is an inspiration.I still have to dress and pack so I don't have much time as India is literally going to drag me away from here any second now, but we will be in touch (or I will be via India's blog) with news/updates/pics of it all.
Byeee! love, Abby Green

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

They're not magic, they're just pants

Arrrgghh. New magic knickers have the alarming effect of redistributing the lumps and bumps most bizarrely, so I look like a badly stuffed sofa. What to do? Just over 24 hours to go, so too late for herb tea and ryvita, and also liposuction. Spending whole day in a sauna wrapped in mud and seaweed not an option either, as I have to go and meet Abby Green at the airport in a little while. Maybe excess poundage will melt away during the frenzied last-minute tidy up I have to do before bringing her back here.

Tonight we’re going out for dinner with fabulous Penny Jordan. Obviously I won’t eat anything....

(Yeah, right!)

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Magic Knickers and Magic News!

Has anyone else noticed that time is doing very odd things at the moment? Christmas was only a moment or two ago, and it was fine to eat an entire bar of Galaxy before breakfast because there was going to be 5 whole weeks to exist on nothing but herbal tea and ryvita before the lovely, glamorous Mills & Boon centenary cocktail party.

Oh dear.

Of course, the idea of herbal tea and ryvita is unappealing in the extreme at any time of the year, but in the freezing greyness of January and the shadow of a deadline it’s barbaric. So today sees me heading to the shops in search of magic knickers. (Has Harry Potter ventured into the world of ladies’ underwear? If not he really should.)

Spent yesterday at home in a fug of central heating and olbas oil with two sick children-- which probably couldn't have contrasted more hugely with the glamour and excitement of the RNA Awards lunch. As the loooooooong day darkened and my patience was almost exhausted I got a text from lovely Kate Hardy to say that she'd won the Romance Prize for her book Breakfast at Giovanni's. The fuzzy felt pieces and discarded tissues all over the floor, the 78th argument about whose turn it was in Animal Snap and the fact that by then I too was succumbing to The Cold all melted away in the face of such happy news. Well done Kate!