25 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, have a wonderful day!

23 December 2008

Stocking fillers

5 things I'd quite like in my stocking (apart, obviously, from an end to war, hunger, disease, poverty etc)...

1. The Call
2. a device that transfers thoughts to text without the need to type
3. a chair that exercises the bottom while writing for stretches at a time
4. a building licence (for which we've been waiting 7 months)
5. James Purefoy or Rupert Penry-Jones or Toby Stephens (preferably all three... or is that just being greedy?)

Hmm, I don't think my stocking's going to be big enough. I need a duvet cover. Who or what would you like in yours?!?

21 December 2008

Decking the halls

In the past Christmas has been spent with my family in the UK or my in-laws in South Africa. This year my husband and I are staying in Spain and family is coming here.

Tomorrow I shall be decking the halls of a house we've rented in the Andalucian hills. It's about 30km from the Mediterranean coast and has views of Morocco. Unlike my uninsulated icebox of a flat, the cortijo also has a open fire and central heating. Bliss...

I'm off tomorrow in a car laden with a husband, a mother-in-law, fairy lights, a turkey and a rather alarming amount of alcohol. Can't wait!

19 December 2008

Catching up

Now that I've finally delivered my manuscript, I'm planning to spend the weekend catching up with stuff that's lapsed over the last week or so. Seeing daylight. Breathing fresh air. Sleeping properly. Eating vegetables. That sort of thing.

There's a pile of Christmas cards to look at, shopping and washing to be done and a flat to decorate. But first, newspapers to read because it's Very Important to keep up with current affairs. So far I've found an article on Mills & Boon's new advertising campaign in the Guardian and a debate about men's chests in the Daily Mail. Very improving.

18 December 2008


It's finished. As am I.

12 December 2008

Why is it taking so long?

I'm going to London tomorrow morning. Will I have finished this ****** book by the time the plane leaves? Rather ambitious but as I have all day today to write, here's hoping...

08 December 2008

Slowly slowly...

Am getting there. Veeeerrrry slowly, as I still seem to delete only marginally less than I write. Got a bit distracted on Saturday by an invitation to spend the afternoon drinking sherry with friends. Oops.

04 December 2008


My plan to get my book to my editor before Christmas was to have finished it by the end of November, let it rest for a couple of weeks and then polish, perfect and send.

This hasn't quite happened. In my day job, I do 40 hrs of marketing a month. I can choose when I do them, but generally break it down to a couple of hours a day. Perfectly manageable you'd think. But you'd be wrong.

It doesn't help that emails needing attention come in thoughout the day, but this week every time I've settled down to deal with them, I've felt guilty for not writing and whenever I've started writing I've felt guilty for not racking up my hours. Consequently I've achieved nothing except a huge inadequacy complex.

So last night I came to a decision: not to write anything today or tomorrow, but to concentrate on the marketing. Then at the weekend I'll be able to look at my story with fresh eyes and attack the last 5000 or so words with gusto.

Bit nuts with my self-imposed deadline looming, but the alternative is total meltdown. How do you juggle writing with everything else that's going on?

03 December 2008

Do blogs have personalities?

I popped over to Liz Fielding's blog and look what I found. A blog personality reader. What does your blog say about you? Utterly irresistible. This is me - apart from the driving race cars and firefighting it's spookily accurate!

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like to seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Check out your own blog here.

01 December 2008


A recent post on romancingtheblog highlighted the issue of writers using references that some readers may not get. This particular post was talking about abbreviations, but I guess it applies equally to specific geographical locations, personalities and language. As long as they don't pop on ever page it wouldn't bother me (I find carelessness far more irritating - I once read a novel in which characters were selling shoes on eBay, sending emails, using slimline mobile phones and watching DVDs in 1985.). But given its timeless international appeal, category romance tends to avoid things like this.

I have a scene in which my characters discuss the whole auction thing and why the hero bid for her. Here's a snippet.

‘I think you’re piqued because I didn’t bid for you out of some overwhelming desire for your body... Admit it, your vanity’s stung.’
‘I’ll have you know my vanity is very much unstung. I just don’t appreciate being batted back and forwards like a commodity between two bored bankers.’
‘We’re not bankers.’
She arched an eyebrow. ‘Rhyming slang.’
Luke winced.

OK, so it's not a particularly obscure example of rhyming slang and should be fairly easy to work out (and hopefully not too offensive!), but if you didn't get it, would it annoy you? How far would/should you go to avoid such references?

27 November 2008

25 November 2008

Editorial comments

My editor's post has been lassooed back from the depths of cyberspace.

24 November 2008

Because it's Monday

I don't generally cast my characters using images of celebs, but if I did, the hero of my current WIP might look something like this. I give you James Purefoy.

[image deleted]

22 November 2008

Thank you

Huge thank yous to everyone who's left comments here and on the iheartpresents site. Such encouragement and positivity makes writing the rest so much more doable.

See the wordcount creeping up? I'm hoping to write 5000 words this weekend, as have no plans except possibly having to go to Jerez's Third Annual Garlic Competition this afternoon. 500 ways with garlic. Who could resist?!

What are you doing this weekend?

19 November 2008

Chapter 1...

... is here!

If you'd like to know where the idea for the story came from, watch this interview of singer James Blunt by Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson. After 5 mins 50 secs of very funny chat about music and cars and tanks, there's the little gem that had me reaching for my notebook...

18 November 2008


It's here. Ugh. I'm not a fan of synopses and usually don't write them until after I've finished the novel. With this synopsis, I'd written three chapters by the contest deadline so the first part is more or less OK, but after about halfway it gets a bit tortured. What I really wanted to put was 'and then lots of things happen but I'm not sure what yet', but for some strange reason I didn't think that would impress the editors.

(And to any family members who may occasionally read this blog, you might want to think twice about clicking on the link!!)

16 November 2008

How scared?

The various elements of my 'Feel the Heat' entry are appearing on the iheartspresents this week: the chapter, the synopsis and editorial comments.

I have no idea in which order they'll be posted, if they'll be posted all together or individually or even when exactly they'll be posted. All I know is that I'm terrified and will probably be spending the week hiding under my desk.

I don't belong to a writing group and I don't have a critique partner. My writing has only ever been seen by NWS readers and the editors at Mills & Boon. This is the first time it'll be open to public scrutiny.

Please be gentle.

14 November 2008

Truly Madly Deeply

Ah, adverbs. Don't you just love them?

I've been going through my WIP and ruthlessly stripping out any words that end in -ly. Which could be dangerous as my heroine is called Emily.

Adverbs don't pop up in my dialogue tags too frequently, just pretty much everywhere else. My characters are always suddenly doing things (which must be rather tiring) and when they're not frowning slightly or smiling faintly, they're often utterly speechless and totally baffled.

So I take out as many as I can (and deposit them here instead), but as a result my sentences feel sort of bereft.

Does anyone else suffer from the same adverb addiction?

12 November 2008


I have to write 20,000 more words and perfect all 50,000 by Christmas. Totally self-imposed. Is it possible? Am I mad?

11 November 2008

I am a flake

Have totally crumbled on the Nano front. I wasn't liking my characters or their story (although I think there might be something there), and then I received a 'get out of jail free' email from the editor at HMB with her comments on my chapter and a request for an update on progress. So I reckon that's a legitimate reason to put the Nano novel aside and go back to the previous story.

On the other hand, an artist friend of mine sometimes has four paintings on the go simultaneously. Is it possible to work on two novels at the same time? Do you, can you, do this?

08 November 2008

NaNoWriMo progress

Well, week one's done and here's my wordcount to date.

Day 1 - 1706
Day 2 - 1627
Day 3 - 614
Day 4 - 1720
Day 5 - 1448
Day 6 - 0
Day 7 - 0

Hmm, something seems to be going awry. Can I use lots of work in the last couple of days as a defence? Maybe I should be doing a little less blogging and a little more writing...

How are you doing?

07 November 2008

'Feel the Heat' - The Call

As if you haven't heard enough from me on iheartspresents already, here's another post. That's it for now, I promise.

06 November 2008


Oh yes, and I have a post up here today.

Mills & Boon

Is the tide of negative opinion turning? First a positive review of BBC4's M&B evening, and now an article on the novels' enduring popularity, especially during a recession. Both appear in Serious Newspapers without a hint of a sneer. Whatever next?!

05 November 2008

I must not edit. I must not edit. I must not edit.

I once heard of a writer (Dick Francis? Frederick Forsyth? Don't remember) who composes the entire novel he's working on in his head until it is word perfect. The actual process of transferring the words onto paper is just a chore that has to be endured.

This is not me. As someone who (with very limited experience) tends to write their way into characters and the story, I'm finding the temptation to go back and play around with what I've written so far is soooooo strong. I'm just about holding out, but am under no illusion that it'll last.

Do you plan? Do you wing it? And how do you resist the urge to edit?

03 November 2008

They were robbed!

Well, the gorgeous gals of the RNA didn't win, but they did fabulously nevertheless (was it just me or did some of the Eggheads' questions seem much easier than the RNA's?).

My Nano wordcount today clocked in at a paltry 614 words. Hmm, not quite so fabulous. On the plus side, I did manage to write biogs for my hero and heroine and jot down a few plot ideas.

My favourite line so far?

What on earth had possessed her to grab a tray of canapes and circulate, hamming up a Spanish accent so bogus she was surprised more people hadn’t commented on it?

(Which gives you some idea of how truly awful the rest is.)

The RNA v. the Eggheads

The Romantic Novelists' Association team takes on the Eggheads this afternoon on BBC2 at 6pm GMT. Five lovely romantic novelists against five notoriously-difficult-to-beat-and-frankly-rather-odd quiz champions.

After the success of the RNA in University Challenge - The Professionals, how can they not win?

02 November 2008


At long, long last I have produced not one, but TWO posts for the iheartspresents site and they're apparently up this week - 6 & 7 November. Thursday's is all about how I discovered M&Bs and Friday's is about The Call. Riveting stuff.

01 November 2008

On your marks

Ok, here we go. 1700 words a day for the next 30 days. Ouch.

The plan: close study door, turn off phones, inhale deeply, close eyes, feel inspiration flow, flex fingers, start typing, lose self in story, create masterpiece.

The likely reality: close study door, check mobile for messages, check email/favourite websites and blogs, switch off internet, open new document, save document, switch internet back on, go through youtube/itunes to create suitable playlist, google images of gorgeous men for character inspiration, flex fingers, start typing, check wordcount, make coffee. Repeat last three until 1700 words done.

What's your plan?

31 October 2008


Is anyone signing up for this or even better, the eHarlequin version? Write a novel in a month? Piece of cake... Umm...

I scribbled down some very sketchy characters yesterday, but at the moment have no plot and only the vaguest of opening scenes. I get the feeling it's going to be a bit like speeding down the motorway having taken only a couple of driving lessons - utter madness!!

28 October 2008

Persephone Books

Two of the novels in my TBR pile are published by Persephone Books, which has been reprinting forgotten classics by twentieth-century (mostly women) writers since 1999.

This is what their website says:

Persephone prints mainly neglected fiction and non-fiction by women, for women and about women. The titles are chosen to appeal to busy women who rarely have time to spend in ever-larger bookshops and who would like to have access to a list of books designed to be neither too literary nor too commercial. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget.

Our titles include novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books. They are all carefully designed with a clear typeface, a dove-grey jacket, a 'fabric' endpaper and bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Jilly Cooper, Adam Gopnik, and Jacqueline Wilson.

The books are gorgeous, and just look at the shop! I haven't yet had a chance to visit, but can so imagine a little bubble of tranquility in north London. Even though the books may be a tad more expensive, I'd far rather buy them from somewhere like here than one of the giant chainstores. What about you?

27 October 2008

Early Christmas present

I have just one word. Spooks.

Ok, one word isn't enough. It's back. Tonight. Rupert Penry Jones AND Richard Armitage... How will we cope? Monday evening TV has never looked so good!

26 October 2008

Chicklit and classics

Madame Bovary arrived in the post yesterday morning. My Amazon deliveries usually contain lovely bubblegum paperbacks with handbags and jaunty heroines on the cover. For years I've lived on a literary diet of chicklit and I've probably acquired enough to open a second-hand bookshop.

But recently I've been craving something else. It started at the RNA conference in July. One of the workshops was on the influence of Shakespeare on romantic fiction and as the floor opened up to comments and questions, I realised that I have a gaping hole where my knowledge of classical literature should be.

While I do love biographies of 19th century adventuresses, Oscar Wilde and inter-war authors like Evelyn Waugh, F Scott Fitzgerald and PG Wodehouse, most of the classic novels have somehow slipped me by. School ruined Hardy and Harper Lee by making us analyse The Mayor of Casterbridge and To Kill a Mockingbird to death. But Balzac, Woolf, Dickens etc? All unchartered territory.

This, I feel, is wrong; it's a blip in my education. Consequently, my to-be-read pile has become a rather eclectic mix. It currently includes:

Good Evening, Mrs Craven by Mollie Panter Downes
Faberge's Eggs by Toby Faber
Madame Bovary by Flaubert

Instead of reading only for enjoyment I'm now going to try and Improve My Mind as well, which may be a struggle given how densely-packed the text is in Cousin Bette.

I'm starting with Madame Bovary. Wish me luck.

What's on your TBR pile?

22 October 2008

Parallel universe

One of the reasons I love writing and reading category romance (apart from the glamorous settings and gorgeous men) is the sheer escapism from the mundanities every day life. Obviously the hero is so fabulously wealthy that he has someone to clean his houses and fill his fridges for him, but have you ever read a romance novel where the heroine stacks the dishwasher, does the laundry or takes the rubbish out? And has any hero ever snored? I wonder...

19 October 2008


Yesterday I wrote a 1000 words of my WIP and drafted a post for the iheartspresents site.

My reward for this burst of wordy activity was going to be admiring Rafael Nadal's forehand and oogling his biceps in the final of the Madrid Masters this afternoon. But, rather unsportingly, he's out. So here's a picture of him and his biceps instead. All in the name of research of course...

[picture deleted]

Pretty impressive, don't you think?

17 October 2008

Itchy fingers

I'm missing my hero and heroine. They've been stuck in a clinch in a torchlit patio since the end of September and they must be getting cold. No news from my editor yet, but it's no good, I can't resist - I'm going to have to get back to the story this weekend.

15 October 2008

Back to the 80s Part 2

While staying with my parents recently, I found my collection of Mills & Boons tucked away in the attic. It's quite a stash. As a teenager I devoured as many as I could. There are hundreds, none of which I have read since I was about 17.

Interested to see how they were written back then, I picked up Dark Betrayal by Patricia Lake which was published in 1986. Initially the book reads like a novel from today: the language is non-jargony, the characters are largely believable - no unpleasantly aggressive hero nor annoyingly passive heroine - and there are even glimpses of the hero's point of view.

But there are differences, and blimey, do they stand out. Firstly, the plot hinges on a Big Misunderstanding, which of course is now a big no no. The heroine finds another woman in the hero's bed, (he's in the shower), storms out and doesn't clap eyes on him until three years later. Nowadays, any self-respecting heroine would charge into the bathroom, demand an explanation and then, on discovering that the hero has no idea what his malicious jealous ward is doing in his bed, would probably hop into the shower with him.

Secondly, all the main characters smoke and knock back scotch, and get this, the heroine finds out she's pregnant, but is still downing champagne a few weeks later at a party. Very 80s and a great read, but I don't think any of this would slip past the editors these days...!

Do you have old favourites and how do they vary from today's M&Bs?

10 October 2008


In my non-writing life, I work for an online language learning company - teaching, training teachers and running marketing and promotional campaigns. The company's based in Switzerland, but the staff are scattered across the globe and we all work remotely via the internet.

It's not only a fab new way to learn a language but also a great excuse for the occasional 'business trip' to get together to discuss 'strategy'.

This afternoon I'm off to see the CEO et al in Berlin. So far the only strategy that's been mentioned is the best way to explore Berlin's nightlife. My kind of strategy.

08 October 2008


I have a lot of IT gadgetry. Among other things, I have an Alphasmart and an eee pc, bought in the foolhardy hope that they would channel the muse, that fully-formed sentences and scenes would flow from my brain to my fingers to the page like the Thames beneath its bridges.

And how many words did I write yesterday? 67.

How many did I delete? About 400. I know that sometimes you have to take a step back in order to go forward, but I'm not entirely sure that a decreasing word count is the way to finish a book. So that's it, I'm going to take Lynn's advice, kick up my heels and wait until I hear from my editor.

07 October 2008

Microphone eyes

Did anyone see this, the headlines from last night's BBC News at Ten?

Fast forward to about 35 seconds in and you'll see Gordon Brown making a speech. It only lasts for around 10 seconds but that was long enough to reduce me to fits of giggles. With hindsight, my amusement at his microphone eyes may have been exacerbated by the couple of glasses of wine I'd drunk.

06 October 2008


What to do?

Having now just about come back down to earth after hearing the wonderful news that I'd won the Modern Heat competition, I'm stuck. I think I should be attacking the rest of the novel, but I'm struggling, and I suspect that this will continue until I receive the critique on my first chapter.

As a complete novice to all this, I'm at a loss. Is this normal? Should I battle on through, or should I admit temporary defeat and clean the fridge in the anticipation that once I do hear from my editor (!) and the creative floodgates (hopefully) open, there won't be another chance?

01 October 2008

'Feel the Heat' Competition

OMIGOD I won!!!

The lovely editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon rang yesterday afternoon and I'm still bouncing off the ceiling. And clinging on to the excitement and delirium before the terrifying reality of having to write the rest of the book sets in.

Is a bottle of pink champagne and a new navy glittery eyeshadow an acceptable way to celebrate? I hope so.

Check out the competition results here.