Thursday, 20 December 2012

End of Term

In common with my children, I'm still technically working, but while they fill their days watching films in the classroom, most of my time at the keyboard is spent scouring the internet for out of stock Christmas presents I should have bought ages ago, and suitable alternatives.  Given that I'm writing this at 2pm on Thursday afternoon and haven't opened my manuscript document since Tuesday I probably might as well give in and accept that the holidays are here.

I've been a really rubbish blogger this year, largely because, without the rolling drama of deadlines and new books to start every 4 months there's not much to write about. The book I'm writing is slowly taking shape into something that I could just about imagine submitting, though it's not finished yet. In writing terms, 2012 has been such a steep learning curve I've needed crampons and a grappling hook, and although I've mostly enjoyed the climb I can't help hoping that 2013 lies on more even terrain. (Paved. With benches placed at regular intervals along it. And nice shops.) Anyway, thank you everyone for loyally checking in to read my sporadic and less than scintillating posts (many of which seemed to centre around not posting much.) If I could send you all chocolate I would, but as that's not possible I'm going to give you the emergency recipe for brownie in a mug that's got me through many a day when the words aren't flowing. Give a girl a brownie and she'll eat for a day. Give her a recipe for brownie in a mug and she has a failsafe fix for a lifetime of chocolateless afternoons.

Chuck 2 tablespoons of plain flour, 2 of sugar (I like to use 1 caster, 1 soft brown) 1 of cocoa powder, 1 of vegetable oil and 1 of water into a mug. Add a drop of vanilla essence and mix it into a revolting-looking paste. Put in the microwave for a minute or so, depending on your microwave. (You might have to experiment a bit here, which is no bad thing.) 
When it comes out it will still look revolting, but as you're not serving it to your mother-in-law that doesn't matter. Eat it standing up in the kitchen, with the addition of Amaretto cream if it's Christmas. 

This has been our first Christmas for 13 years without nativity plays, carol concerts, the need to make 50 mini sausage rolls (or cheese and pineapple on sticks) for the class party or write a poem for the talent show, so thus far the run up to festivities for me has been marked solely by... shopping. Oh, and cleaning the oven. However, now I have declared myself officially on holiday am going to spend the rest of the afternoon watching low-budget, made-for-TV tearjerkers and eat the Quality Street I bought for the bin men and forgot to leave out yesterday.

Happy Christmas to all of you. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I'm wishing you love, laughter, hot baths and good books. And for the phone not to ring during the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A bit of Critical Media Analysis for your Monday Morning

At the start of the autumn I remember making a rather rash promise to come back and do a post on the orgy of pleasure and escapism (and, in this house, also of wine and Mrs Patmore-esque pudding) that is Downton Abbey. Its non-appearance is, in part, due to a bit of reluctance to tarnish the joy for American readers by selfishly spilling spoilers, but also (much less nobly) because I evidently go into a mysterious trancelike state the moment I hear the title music and the instant it's finished I can't think of a single critically incisive comment to make about it. I love it all, and even when I'm howling at the television and rolling my eyes, I'm still loving it (which admittedly might have something to do with the wine and pudding.) Anyway, am feeling slightly envious of you US gals who still have it all to come. Here, we're already looking forward to the Christmas episode.

Talking of Christmas, it's still only November but already the advert breaks are full of sleigh bell sound tracks and polystyrene snow. Happily, my critical brain is in fine form when it comes to this year's crop of festive supermarket offerings. Forgive me again, non-UK residents, for whom the names Morrisons, Asda, John Lewis and Sainsburys probably mean nothing, but the following clips will tell you all you need to know. Let's start with Asda, who this year have decided it's a great idea to get us lay-deez to spend our money there by reminding us that, on the great Downton scale of things, we are definitely Team Servants. And our husbands, of course, are Lord Grantham and Matthew and King George V all rolled into one. Notice the cheeky little line at the end from the humorous boy-husband...

(No, you may not have a proper seat at the table; you might get ideas above your station. Oh, and while you're down there...)

I have a theory that Morrisons' creative team went to the same 'Feminism: Let's Pretend it Never Happened' seminar as the Asda chaps (and I bet they were chaps), but they were at the back of the queue for coffee and the biscuits ran out, giving them a darker take on it all. In their offering, our downtrodden heroine is not plucky and cheery about her lot. No. In fact, she is clearly a woman on the edge of doing herself harm and the whole thing looks a lot like an advert for a seasonal mental health helpline. 

('I wouldn't have it any other way.' WHAT???  You're not fooling anyone with that line. And PUT THE CARVING KNIFE DOWN.)

John Lewis are a definite cut above, darling, and their adverts are whimsical, high-budget and have great soundtracks. When I first saw this one I liked it, I really did. It has snowmen! And look, in snowman society the male of the species has reached a peak of evolutionary finesse way beyond human men, enabling them to go shopping! And yet... and yet... watch it back-to-back with the other two and don't you need to crack open the cooking sherry? It's all so... grim, this seasonal slog to equip ourselves with the trappings of festive overindulgence. You'd think these retail giants would have an interest in making it look easier, wouldn't you? I'd love it if John Lewis could produce a follow-up advert that showed the snow-woman whip out an ipad the moment her partner shuffles tortuously off into the blizzard, and order him something online. 

(Did you keep the receipt? I don't suppose you could take them back and swap them for another colour...?)

For me, Sainsbury's is the clear Christmas Campaign winner. Look, no tired stereotypes! Cute kids! Cute dad! And he allows the mum to sit on an actual chair at the table! I am filled with hope for Christmas Yet To Come when this boy will have grown into a man who knows how to work a dishwasher

Well done Sainsburys. And, as a reward I will do all my shopping with you this year, as always.  So, tell me - do these adverts set your teeth on edge too or do you laugh in wry recognition (because you're less uptight than I am?) Have I spent too long at the keyboard and become and joyless overthinker? 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Lipstick, literature and a lovely weekend.

Back at my desk and feeling rather deflated (though sadly only in an emotional rather than a physical sense) after a weekend of brilliant company, amusing conversation, culture, champagne and shopping. Friday saw the annual Mills & Boon Author lunch, always a full-blown lipstick-mascara-heels event and a big gold-star date on my calendar. Travelling down on the train I tapped away at my laptop, enjoying the illusion of being a proper Professional Person, while trying not to bounce up and down on my seat with excitement at the prospect of seeing everyone and a whole day and night of behaving irresponsibly with Abby Green.

Cool professionalism was further undermined on arrival in the room where the lunch was being held (feel the urge to refer to it as 'luncheon', which tells you what kind of room it is) by the pink goody bags at each place setting. As someone who, over the years, has spent vast amounts of cash and many late nights putting together pink party bags for mini-guests at endless birthday parties this was a most pleasing manifestation of karma, though I have to confess that nothing as generous or exciting as Laurent Perrier champagne, Hotel Chocolat Kir Royale chocolates, candles or pink moleskine notebooks (with M&B logo) have ever appeared in a party bag of my creation.

It was a fabulous day, ending with a lovely, champagne-hazy evening at the M&B Author Toast (complete with dainty canapes, but no actual toast) during which conversation embraced such highbrow topics as The Actor Most Suited to Playing Christian Grey (Henry Cavill, obv) and Preparations for Childbirth (which I'm not going to mention, for fear of attracting the wrong sort of visitor via Google Search).  The following morning I met Daughter #1 from the train at Euston as she'd been shortlisted in a poetry competition in Peterborough that evening, which was a fine excuse for a day in London first. Given the purpose of the visit and her literary leanings she was keen to make a pilgrimage to Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, which supplied the cultural element of the weekend. Not only is she a talented poet, but she also has a prodigious skill in getting me to part with large amounts of cash, so after lunch I found myself in Topshop with my credit card in my hand. Seriously, the girl's a genius.

The evening's poetry event was hugely enjoyable and inspiring, not only because Sir Andrew Motion was the judge and gave a reading, but also because hearing the variety of styles and approaches to the theme in the shortlisted poems was so interesting. Also on the judging panel was the super-cool Mark Grist, writer and performer of one of my favourite poems of recent years. Check this out...

(I like a man who even knows about the works of Jilly Cooper, 
never mind re-enacting the raunchy bits...)

Anyway, yesterday was spent sitting on draughty branch-line stations in the syrupy autumn sun and waiting for delayed trains and missed connections to get home. The days when this would have been an endurance test of endless games of I-spy and Hangman are still fresh in my memory, but it was actually a joy to spend time with lovely daughter #1 and talk about things we never get a chance to at home, where conversations rarely progress beyond the number of wet towels on the bathroom floor or the whereabouts of my Touche Eclat.

Back at home the fridge was full (of slightly random items ordered by Him in the online shop) the fire was laid, and there was plenty of time to unpack, hug daughters 2 and 3 and chill the goody bag champagne before DOWNTON ABBEY.

(And that, ladies, is a whole new avenue of joy and the subject of a post all of its own...)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

New term. New Start. New shoes.

Daughter #3 left for her new school very early this morning (at least 20 minutes before her older sisters, who both go to the same place) looking unrecognisably smart and grown up in her new uniform and shiny shoes. Watching her go, I experienced one of those crystal-clear flashbacks that occur often in books but rarely in real life, of watching her walk down the lane to nursery in the autumn that she was 3 years old, wearing her purple coat and holding her daddy's hand, looking up at him. It caught me so off-guard I had to blow my nose hastily on a tea towel.

So the plan was that the moment the daughters were all out the door I'd be up to my office like a rat up a drain, typing away frantically and trying to get down all the fabulous, sparkly words and ideas that have glittered in my head all summer when I've been far away from a computer. Instead I spent the first hour wistfully sorting washing and feeling teary-eyed and nostalgic for the happy weeks of freedom from routine and time spent with lovely people. This year we timed our own prestigious Family Olympics to coincide with the similarly-named event in London, although as a member of Team GB I have to report that we didn't do nearly as well as the official team, despite my own gold-medal performance in the Sock Sorting event. After that, with scarcely a washing-machine-cycle's turnaround, we went off to St Ives, where the evenings were warm, the sea was clear and the surfers were plentiful. We'd chosen a house right in the centre of the town so the teenagers could come and go (and stay in bed) as they pleased, which seems to be the Shape of Holidays to Come. Am fleetingly sad about the passing of the sandcastle-building years, but on balance think that the going-out-in-the-evening and drinking-wine-on-the-beach years will have much to recommend them.

Back home again, the days settled into an easy routine of waking early and writing before the daughters roused themselves from their beauty sleep. I've been writing something a bit different which has been both challenging and fun, which I usually find a contradiction in terms. (Not sure whether the fun element was due to writing in bed, which adds a certain holiday atmosphere. Also, on the downside, a certain amount of toast crumbs. Impossible to write without devouring mini-breakfast, to boost creative energy levels.) The afternoons were given over to entertainment and adventure, and a good deal of extremely messy baking, so that the kitchen has become so covered in drifts of icing sugar it looks like Miss Havisham's dining room. It was only the prospect of cleaning it that finally sent me hurrying upstairs to blow the dust off the computer and locate the 'on' switch... (after which I spent a pleasant hour browsing the internet for new shoes - which are surely an essential compensation for the end of summer and onset of autumn?)

Hope everyone else has had a lovely summer and made a few more memories to add to the precious store we each carry with us. If there are any that you'd like to share I'd love to hear them...

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Wonderful Weekend, and the Season of Last Times

Am in nostalgic mood after a weekend in Penrith at the RNA Conference, where I met up with a whole  lot of truly lovely people - some of whom were old friends, others whom I was thrilled to be meeting for the first time. (That sentence is so grammatically correct it hurts.) Last year was my first so I'm still a Conference New Girl, but already it's become a highlight of my year. Where else would you be given free books and chocolate, educated, entertained, fed, motivated, inspired, hugged, and made to laugh and cry*? A ginormous thank you to all concerned for a fantastic weekend

(*yes, Julie Cohen, I'm talking to you!)

So, already feeling a bit emotionally brim-full, I've come back to a week of saying goodbye. On Thursday I'll be doing the school run for the very last time after doing the same route with daughters in varying numbers and of varying sizes since the last Millennium (September 1999, to be exact.) The Big School is within walkable distance of home, which is good news for the planet and our petrol budget, but I'm going to miss driving through the Cheshire countryside with the mist lying in veils over the fields, the cows telling us (through the medium of bovine body language) what the weather is going to be like, and the trees marking out the stages of the year (through the medium of Leaf). I'm also going to miss the school itself, and the fabulous people associated with it, who've taught each of my children to read (Number One on my list of Essential Lifeskills), taken them for their first nights away from home, looked after them when they've been sick, told them off when they've been naughty and generally made up for our parental shortcomings.

They've been pretty idyllic years. I loved the small (non-iron) uniforms and the handmade Mothers Day cards, with their unguarded, from-the-heart messages (You are the best mummy in the hole world. I love you millions). I absolutely adored the Christmas plays and summer fairs (where I campaigned tirelessly, tirelessly I tell you, to be allowed to serve Pimms alongside the traditional tea and coffee) and harvest festivals and, although I grumbled at the time, now I think I even liked sitting on a chair seat half the size of my bottom to watch them. I loved the parents evenings that consisted of smirking over the things they'd written in their 'News and Stories' book followed by a quick debrief with the teacher. I loved the way they always came out of the classroom smiling, and chatted all the way home about stuff that had happened that day. The teenage years are exciting and bring many advantages, but you need the skill of an Enigma Code-breaker and the cunning of Hercule Poirot to find out a fraction of what they used to happily impart from the back seat of the car.

Since the start of the school year in September I've found myself secretly and sadly counting down the Last Times: last Christmas play, last school trip, last Easter Bunny Drive. The past couple of weeks have brought last sports day, last Performing Arts Club play, last summer fair, and now we're down to last Monday and the final few grains of sand in the glass of the Primary Years. Must NOT weep too loudly and messily during the Leavers' Assembly and embarrass poor Daughter #3...

(Plenty of time for that when she gets to High School.)

Friday, 6 July 2012

Old Books, New Covers...

This month I'm back on the shelves with new books that are actually old friends in disguise. And what disguises they are...

SecretsChampagne Summer

Click for more info on Wicked Secrets

Champagne Summer contains 'Tamsin' and 'Sarah' (who will both be extremely thrilled at their promotion to title characters!) from At The Argentinean Billionaire's Bidding and Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper. Wicked Secrets is my two Fitzroy books in one (rather beautiful) edition, and Secrets (of the non-naughty kind) sees my Taken For Revenge, Bedded for Pleasure tucked in alongside Penny Jordan's One Night in his Arms. I knew that this edition was coming out, but wasn't prepared for the arrival of a box of books one rainy morning, and seeing the 'Dear Reader' letter she'd written inside. Needed a cup of tea and half a packet of Happy Faces biscuits to get over that, I can tell you. 

It's raining here. A lot. Came downstairs this morning to find the kitchen floor under 2 inches of water and Ruby the airhead cat marooned on the sofa looking alarmed. Just as well my writing room is up in the attic, and I'm in the middle of a scene set in high summer... (which is what this is meant to be, isn't it?)

Monday, 18 June 2012

A post in which I use a lot of CAPITALS

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of lovely days with Adorable Abby Green. She came to stay en route to a family wedding and we did some shopping, a lot of talking, some drinking wine at lunchtime (and at dinnertime, and for quite a long time before and after dinner, too), eating Irish smoked salmon and watching James D'Arcy in W.E. At one point, when enough Prosecco had been consumed to make such comments acceptable, she said to me WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST UPDATE YOUR BLOG?

Now Abby Green is a wise and wonderful woman, and I never heard her give a piece of bad advice (except for 'I really think we should get another bottle'), so here I am, after almost two months, updating my blog. TWO MONTHS? How in the name of Cadburys did that happen? The last time I posted I was full of good intentions about nipping back within a couple of days with details of some of the cool stuff we got up to over Easter, and signed off promising to return 'once I've got some momentum going on the book...' (or words to that foolhardy effect).


At that point my manuscript word count was standing at about 60 thousand words, many of which I knew were neither perfect nor in the right place in the narrative, but I planned to carry on writing until I reached The End before going back and rearranging them all until they resembled A Book. Head down, absorbed in the vivid story in my mind, I felt that this was a reasonably achievable goal. And then I stopped for almost two weeks over Easter (and actually left the house and talked to real people which, with hindsight, was obviously asking for trouble) and when I sat back down and opened the document I discovered that the beautiful, intricately-constructed story I'd left was actually the longest and most tediously dull prologue in the history of writing and that NOTHING INTERESTING HAD ACTUALLY HAPPENED. In 60 thousand words. Gah! WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME?

OK, I thought, prowling around the house frantically searching for any stray mini-creme eggs the children might have missed on the Easter egg hunt; no problem, I'll just do some cutting. I can usually reduce my word count by a third just by curbing my adjective gluttony, so I figured it shouldn't be too hard to prune my rambling set-up and get down to some action. Except when I got back to my desk I discovered it wasn't quite that simple, and actually the whole story needed re-structuring. Worse than that, it desperately needed PLANNING.

I'm a well-documented, dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying pantster, but once this fact had occurred to me there was no way of making it un-occur. So, first of all I retreated to bed for an hour and lay beneath the duvet shivering, then I got up, armed myself with a large pad of A4 paper, some different coloured pens (which served no practical purpose whatsoever but cheered me up a bit) and planned. Minutely. For about two and a half weeks.

It was all most dispiriting. After weeks of noting down my daily word count in a tiny silver diary bought specially for the purpose, it felt like failure not to be able to watch the total creep up any more. The pay-off was knowing for certain that the book will be about a squillion times better (ahem... once it's written) and that writing it should be a bit easier with some kind of map to follow.

That's the theory, anyway. Better get on with testing it out.

Monday, 16 April 2012


That's a very positive title for what was going to be one of my characteristically moany posts about sitting down at my desk and opening my wip document after almost 2 weeks away from it (on screen, anyway). However, the wonderful and eternally positive Kate Hardy has tagged me with a Sunshine Award which has shamed me into being more upbeat. The idea is to say what makes you happy, so with a wonderful Easter fresh in my mind, here's a not-quite exhaustive list.

Chocolate, of course. And Prosecco at lunchtime. And family, obvs - both close and extended, and the glow you get when you know you have a stretch of long days and late nights together ahead. Changing seasons. Old china. Red gingham ribbon. Clean white bedlinen. Places where you can see the layers of history and sense the presence of people long gone. Junk shops. Book shops. Cake shops. Proper tea, properly made. Writing (when it's going well). Hearing the daughters laugh together. Old-fashioned perfume (so, nothing that smells of melon). The bittersweet feeling of reading a brilliant book and you can't stop but don't want it to end, either. Clinique Chubby Sticks. Woodland walks. Pina Coladas. Getting caught in the rain (hahaha - not really, I hate both of those.) Wellies. Pyjamas (not necessarily together, although sometimes, when camping.) New season English asparagus. Late-night impulse online shopping. Scarves, especially of a pashmina-y persuasion. The place where I live. Elemis frangipani body oil. Baths. The apple tree in the garden. Toast and honey. Notebooks. Long lie-ins. Evenings at home on the sofa. Evenings out with friends. And singing loudly in the car, but that's my guilty secret, OK?

Thanks for that, Kate - just what I needed to kick-start the back-to-work week. Once I've got some momentum going on the book again I'll be back to fill you in on what we got up to over Easter, which - stop press! - involved actually leaving the house! Here's a taster of what for... (one of the things, anyway...)

Before I go, I think I have to tag someone else to give their Happy list. I'm going to ask Sharon Kendrick, but I'd also love to hear what makes you happy. Bet there are loads of things I haven't thought of that I'll want to add to mine...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

This Joyful Eastertide*

It's been so long since I posted that we're now in a different season and a whole new time zone (or something), the snowdrops have given way to massive swathes of daffodils everywhere and Britain has gone from a surprise summer to the depths of winter again. Bizarre. I did intend to reappear before now, and in fact got as far as writing about the blackbird that insists on waking me up by imitating a car alarm outside my window at 5.30 every morning, but the clocks went forward before I got around to posting it and being woken up at 6.30 didn't seem nearly so worthy of sympathy.

Anyway, apart from the season and the time and the flowers and the weather not much has changed here. I'm still buried deep in the book and my reclusedom reached new heights (depths?) when I decided to cut my own hair using a youtube video for instruction, rather than waste a whole morning sitting in the hairdresser's. It's not a bad effort, even if I do say so myself  (although there's a good chance I wouldn't be saying it if someone showed me the back in a little mirror, like the hairdresser does). Less successful was my attempt at home colouring, however I believe that the two-tone, dip-dye look is pretty hot this season so I'm reassured that the few people I do see (the online grocery delivery man, the lady in the petrol station kiosk and one or two parents at the school gate who are as late picking up as I am) will be massively impressed by my up-to-the-minute look.

Nothing much else to report. Have been watching Lord Julian Fellowes of Downton's most recent Sunday night offering, Drownton  Titanic, but have to say I'm not blown away (or swept overboard) by it. The structure feels a bit too Groundhog Day-inspired, and the characters so flimsy that you quite expect them to be scattered in the icy waters at any moment, but can't work up much angst about it from the comfort of the sofa. If only he could have found a way of putting Maggie Smith on the ship, as well as Bates's scheming wife, and upping the quota of amusing one-liners.  (Perhaps he felt the doomed liner was no place for an amusing one-liner? Shame.) I've also devoted a frustrating amount of time to planning a research trip to Northamptonshire/Cambridge in June, so would love to have draft 1 of the book pretty much nailed by then. It seems a little back to front to be writing first and researching later, but I think I need to get down what's in my head without being too troubled by trifling little details like reality. I've never written this way before and it feels frustratingly slow - I want the book to be finished NOW.

Happily, my brother and his lovely family are arriving for the weekend tomorrow, which has forced me to raise my head from the keyboard, buy flowers and clean places that haven't felt a drop of Flash since they came at Christmas, and has provided the daughters with a great excuse to give Marian Keyes's Saved By Cake a thorough road test. I love Easter, and not only because it means you can have hot cross buns for breakfast instead of boring cereal. Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope it involves a happy amount of chocolate and cake, and not so much in the way of snow or hours spent in traffic. Happy Easter everyone!

* This Joyful Eastertide always makes me smirk because it's what Grace, the O'Hara's feckless cleaner in Jilly Cooper's Rivals, sings at all sorts of inappropriate moments. *sigh* Sometimes I forget just how much I love Jilly, and then I remember all over again...(Virtuous cleaning intentions crumble to make more dust...)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

RIP Favourite Teapot

My passion for tea is well-documented. For the last 15 years my 10 cup a day habit has been largely serviced from a little blue-spotted tea pot, bought from Whittard after my mum's very wonderful friend Judith initiated me into the magic of her Earl Grey and Ceylon leaf tea blend. It's had a place in the kitchens of three houses, been with me though growing and feeding two babies, saved my sanity on many long afternoons with small children, and been privy to more kitchen table gossip than I care to dwell on. It kept me going as I slogged through writing my first book, and bravely fuelled the writing of ten more over the years that followed. It was pretty battle-scarred, and latterly held together almost entirely by tanin stains (I hate to think what my insides look like.) Until I dropped it on Sunday evening, that is, since when it hasn't been held together by anything.


I have a replacement. It's probably a bit prettier, with pink roses that haven't been dulled with layers of tanin. But it's Just Not The Same.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hello from the Hermit's Cave

Just thought I ought to stick my head out and let everyone know that I haven't frozen to death at my desk in my chilly attic study, or become buried under drifts of Kitkat wrappers and post-it notes. Or been bundled off to the asylum, hallucinating about being eaten by giant commas and question marks.

Having cleared my diary of all appointments and been rude ruthless in my refusal of all invitations to hang out with friends and generally do nice stuff, I am writing. It's a bit drastic, and not exactly a laugh a minute, but after a few months of distraction, displacement activity and being stuck at 25k, and with no official deadline to scare me into staying at my keyboard until the small hours it's the only way. And it is working. The age-old Idea is growing into a book, with proper chapters and some kind of structure (which will obviously need to be completely overhauled in the second draft, but la la la - what?) and Pretend World has conveniently swallowed up Reality in a way that makes writing so much easier. 

On the downside, squalor reigns on the domestic front, the daughters' birthdays are largely being sponsored by Amazon and Ebay, I have an ironing pile you could ski down, hair like Dumbledore (without the beard, thankfully)(I think - it's been a while since I looked in a mirror) and a wardrobe full of clothes that seem to have shrunk two sizes. And a long way to go until The End. 

Oddly enough, I'm loving it.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rich Rewards

I don't need to tell you, dear blog readers, how long I've been stalking an active appreciator of James D'Arcy. So, let's just say that the plentiful PR coverage his new film is attracting is doing an excellent job of staving off the January blues. Here's the trailer. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Work Avoidance

I'm something of a master in the art of work-avoidance, but even by my standards re-designing my blog was a stroke of genius. It felt pleasantly businesslike, but involved little in the way of Thinking or Coming Up With Words and has yielded tangible and rather satisfying results. I'm not sure about the birds up there, but I'm pleased with the old-fashioned typewritery font. What do you think?

What's next I wonder? Might look out some receipts for my tax return. Or research something.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


By now I’m sure that many of you will have heard of the death of Penny Jordan. She slipped quietly away in the last few hours of the old year, enveloped in the love of her family, knowing – thanks to her wonderful sister, who kept in touch with her friends throughout – how very much she was adored and admired and I’m very glad about that. But I’m still utterly devastated that she’s gone.

Quite simply she’s the reason I’m here, doing what I’m doing. Without her I’d still be messing up people’s furniture orders in Laura Ashley, failing to work the till, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated and taking it out on my family. I'd still believe that the only skills I had (daydreaming and putting words together) were utterly unmarketable. Penny didn't give me a career exactly, but she gave me something far more valuable - the confidence to strive for one myself, and the self-belief that I could achieve things I'd always written off as being far beyond my reach. She made my world bigger and brighter, and she made me able to lift my head up and look at it properly.

I've often referred to her as my Fairy Godmother, such was the transformative effect she had on my life. She called herself my 'writing mum', which doesn't do justice to her shimmering glamour but is equally fitting. She was the first person I told when I got 'the call'. She was the person I talked to when I needed advice on anything from contracts to career direction, the one I shared champagne and chocolates with (at my kitchen table at 10 in the morning) when I won the RNA Romance Prize, the person to whom I dedicated my first book. It was Penny who inspired, instructed and informed my writing more than anyone else, who made me feel shy and awe-struck by her effortless elegance, her humour, humility and capacity for sheer hard work, and who gave endlessly without ever taking anything in return.

I will miss her more than I can begin to say.