Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Only One Man Will Do…

Sometimes late at night there is only one man I want in my life. I sneak to bed, plump up my pillows, log on to my lap top. I head to iTunes and I’m in heaven.

I watch him stride across stages, stroll on beaches, hanging out on boats and singing on tractors. Some people say my fascination is unhealthy, when I floated the idea of a tattoo of him on my back the Boy Toy threatened the end of everything. I still haven’t taken the idea of it off the table.

Who is this man? Who is the only man that will do?

Kenny Chesney (aka The Chesney)

Since sometime in 2003 I was bitten by the bug and it hasn’t gone away. He is a pint sized bundle of East Tennessee goodness. After a bad day all I want to do is live in his world. Where he tells stories of high school days gone by or love lost. I love the manly way he tries to dance (not always successfully). Of course I could just listen to his music and I do, but there is something about that lower lip of his pouting that just has to be seen. Oh and did I mention that I got to speak to him once? Be still my heart. Next time we'll be sending out the wedding invites.

So what can you do when only one man will do?

So that is me set for the night... who is the only man for you?

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna

Monday, March 26, 2012

Toys or Equipment...How Do You Choose

As I am looking at buying a new computer I find myself wondering if in the past writers spent so much time debating on the tools of their trade...Did they debate the quality of the quill or parchment???

I know I can spend hours looking a notebooks and pens but recently I have been looking at upgrading my main working tool - my computer (no, not my brain - might be good if I could upgrade that!). I need something that is portable, hard-wearing, versatile, and elegant. So that has brought me to either the Mac Air or one of the new ultrabooks...Or to the Mac vs PC debate.

Having always used PCs I lean towards them. In the past they have been substantially cheaper but in the ultrabook range there isn't that much difference. Is now the time to jump ship?

My head spins with the pros and cons of each...I can't make up my mind. Do you have a preference? And if so why?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kind of Spooky ...

Yesterday I had coffee in the crypt. Doesn’t that sound like a brilliant opening to a paranormal or gothic romance? In my case though, it happens to be quite literally true.

The great thing about London is that it’s full of gems, hidden away places that are as much a surprise as a delight when you come across them. The Cafe in the Crypt underneath the church of St Martin in the Fields (next to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery) is one such. I’d never been before, but when I went there yesterday I was fascinated and my imagination started working overtime.

It would definitely make a great setting for a story. The low vaulted ceiling alone is amazing (quite apart from the craftsmanship that must have gone into building it!) and it immediately makes you think of dungeons and dark deeds. The echoing of people’s voices off the thick stone walls has you wondering what they’ve witnessed over the years – grief and despair mostly, I guess, but I didn’t get a feeling of sadness the way you do in some buildings. Rather, it was comforting, as if the souls that had passed through were at peace there.

It was a bit surreal to be eating lunch while sitting on top of someone’s grave though. The floor was almost entirely made up of slabs with names of the deceased carved into them. One stood out and really intrigued me – it was for a Mr Andries Baron and had a skull and cross-bones motif at the top. A buried pirate? Or was that just the latest fashion in gravestones in 1777?

I kind of believe in fate and I’m beginning to think it’s trying to tell me I should be writing a Gothic tale of some sort. Not long ago, I was at Rochdale Town Hall, which has the most amazing interior complete with indoor gargoyles. In my imagination, that turned easily into a Gothic mansion. And there are more gargoyles watching me from the roof of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which I pass quite frequently. It’s as if they’re ready to jump down as soon as it gets dark. Then recently, I stumbled across a narrow alleyway, the kind you feel is closing in on you ...

I’m giving myself the shivers here, so maybe I should go back to writing the lovely, sunny historical romance I’m working on. Because I don’t write Gothic stuff, not really, but maybe one day soon I will be going back to the crypt ... (and how’s that for a spooky ending?)

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


We're having a clear-out. We have a roomy, if crumbling, three-bedroomed home, and just the two of us have rather spread out to fill the available space. We need to clear out, tidy up, redecorate in places.

But what we really need to reduce is..... I'm sorry folks, but it's the number of books we have. We have books in nearly every room, and the two landings are groaning with them. It's almost at the stage where you have to shuffle sideways to pass by. We don't have shelf space for them all. We very nearly don't have FLOOR space for them all...

I'm not usually a book-discarder. I'm more of a book hoarder. I remember in my teens being horrified when my parents went through a similar process. "How can you give this away?! It's a BOOK!" But it's okay, we're making space for good reasons, so I can reconcile this with my bibliophile soul....

(eBooks is a whole other story, but there's a difference between the books I want to share my phone with, and the books I want to share my home with.)

But the trouble is how to choose. What actually makes a keeper? Must I keep this signed copy, even though my reading tastes have changed and I'm never likely to read their work again? Do I keep this book, because I sent friends running to buy it when I was signing my first book at the RWA mass literacy autographing? Do I keep this book, even though I don't much like it, because I love this particular author?

As a reader and a writer with a lot of writer friends, the lines between book-that-is-a-story and book-that-is-the-book-of-my-friend become very blurred, and influence the decision-making of decluttering a lot.

Some choices are easy. Close friends' books (which currently fill two shelves, hooray!) are no-brainers. There are some authors (but VERY few, as it turns out) that I will keep all their books because they are ALL magnificently good. Other authors where a particular series really caught me, and will continue to be re-read. The Mary Stewarts, the D L Sayers, the Terry Pratchetts... those collections stay in their entirity, of course, including duplicates (because you never know when a book might get damaged!) There's one four-shelf collection of the 'complete works of' which I'm slightly embarassed about, but I'll keep because they're great comforters, I read them a lot when I'm not feeling well, and, well, I like them. So there.

While mining my book collection, I've found large seams of books that I haven't read in years, that I wouldn't really choose to read any more, but that have fond associations with places or people. But they are people I'm never likely to meet or talk to again, and places I may never go again. They belong to another "me". So, although it feels a little bit like I'm giving away a part of myself, they've got to go. I'll keep a few, just as reminders, but I can't make space for a book in my home just because it has a whisp of fond memory attached.

So. Keepers, then, it turns out, are the books of close friends, books I will read again many times, and a few, a treasured few, that fly the flag for past times.

What are keepers to you? How do you choose what to keep, and what to pass on?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Letting Go...

My work is out there, sitting gathering dust on an agent’s desk or clogging up their inbox. It has even been rejected a time or two, but that isn’t the letting go I want to talk about. Oh no, I want to talk about first drafts.

First drafts where the possibilities are endless. Where characters are still forming therefore nothing they do is wrong… yet. Any twist and turn could be the twist or turn that makes the plot fly. Who cares about repetition? Who cares that you have head hopped and changed point of views part way through a scene? All you need to care about is getting the story down.

I am in the throes of a first draft. It feels like the beginning of a new relationship. You still think those little quirks are adorable. That every little thing the story does is fabulous, amazing, life changing. Each sentence unveils something startling and exciting.

This week I wrote about two characters holding hands and in thinking who were the last people they would have held hands with I found a whole new character and motivation.

It is scary, exhilarating, breath taking and the best therapy to stop worrying about what is going on in some agent’s office somewhere. 

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oops and Name Dropping

I should have been here on Thursday and in fact I even drafted a post which is great...except it is on my lap top which is in London and I am in Dubai...

Not a good and then I forgot about it totally because I was taking part in my first literary festival and not just any one, but the one I have volunteered at for the past few years- the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature. I had crossed the divide! And, well, wow...

Last year Biddy and I manned the Green Room, led authors on tours, and had the best and most exhausting of times. This year I ran two writing workshops for a school and Sharjah and sat on a panel session on first fictions discussing the different ways to publication...definitely a pinch me transformation.

This week reminded me to two things. The first was how blessed i am to be living my dream and second was that what you put in - volunteering in this case really pays off.

I want to post a photo but the festival hasn't released it's a picture of all the authors and there's is little old me standing in front of of Nicholas Sparks and David Nichols...and I think I spied the delicious Giorgio Locatelli over my shoulder as cool is that. What a difference a year can make....

I sorely missed my partner in crime, Biddy. It would have been sweeter to have her there to share in the change of status but hopefully this year will bring her turn.

Liz Fenwick and Michael Portillo
As I can't post the big group picture I'll share this one instead...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Courageous Heroines

We’ve discussed leading ladies before on this blog, and I think we agreed that we all put a lot of ourselves into our heroines. In fact, most of the time we ARE the heroine, just in disguise. This means, of course, that they take on a lot of our own likes, dislikes and idiosyncracies.

This is certainly true for me. For example, I hate the colours beige and brown, so would never make my heroines wear it. I don’t like sausages, therefore my heroines don’t either. I love long hair – whenever possible I let my heroines have abundant tresses. I love animals, so my heroines do too. And so on and so forth.

There is one way in which we differ fundamentally, however – I’m a chicken, they’re not. In real life I’d probably rather run away than get involved in a fight, would faint in horror if I saw a ghost or was confronted with anything paranormal, and I doubt I could save anyone’s life except if they were drowning (I love swimming). But my heroines can’t be like that – they have to be feisty, capable and stand up for themselves. They have to be courageous and self-sacrificing, ready to take risks in order to get what they want. That’s definitely not me.

But on the other hand, it’s the “me” I’d like to be.

I’m sure we all dream of doing things we’ve never dared to – whether it’s skydiving, bungee jumping or just travelling the world. I do wish I’d been born braver, but because I’m not, it’s even more satisfying to be able to make my alter ego courageous. I know some authors do go out and try all the things they write about, but I content myself with living vicariously, through my imagination. Perhaps it’s not as satisfying as doing something yourself, but I think it’s enough for me. Or is it?

I recently read a novel where the heroine drew up a list of ten things she’d like to do before she died and then acted on it (Swimming with Dolphins by Deborah Wright). This made me wonder what I’d put on mine and whether I’d be able to tick any of them off. The list was supposed to be secret and some of the items on it may not be at all feasible, but it’s quite a fun exercise. Mine isn’t complete yet, so I’ll have to keep working on it. I definitely know I want to go to Pompei and Herculaneum, so that’s item no.1 (and I don’t think I need to keep that a secret), and I would love to swim with dolphins, even if that’s a bit clichéd, but I’m not sure what else.

How about you – what would you definitely want to do before it’s too late? Or how far would you go in the name of research?

Please come back on Thursday to hear from Liz!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Summer of Living Dangerously Paperback Party!

It's paperback publication day for my new book, The Summer of Living Dangerously.

And you know what publication day means for us Heroine Addicts:


To suit the title of my book, we thought we'd have a summertime party, even though it's only March. We all get to choose our dates and a summertime food or beverage. I don't know about you, but I could do with a bit of summer right now. It's been a loooooong winter.

So here's a bit about the book:

Alice Woodstock has been running away.

Well, not literally. She spends most of her time glued to her desk, writing about grommets and model aeroplanes. No, Alice is avoiding the real world because there's something—someone—in her past that she's desperate to forget. So when she's commissioned to write about life in stately home Eversley Hall, she jumps at the chance to escape into Regency England, even if it does mean swapping her comfy T-shirt for an itchy corset. Perhaps she'll meet her own Mr Darcy...

But then her past resurfaces in the shape of Leo Allingham and Alice is brought down to earth with a bump. Reckless, unpredictable Leo reminds Alice of the painful price of following her heart. And the new Alice doesn't live dangerously.

Or does she?

So how are we going to celebrate?

Anna: I'd like to bring strawberries and cream as my special thing. That sweet-sharp taste of sunshine and summer.... mmmmm. Actually, the best strawberries I ever remember were without cream... I picked them growing wild on a sunnym, mossy bank, and they were warm on the tongue and miraculously, marvellously sweet on the tastebuds. Bliss.

Julie: Anna has kindly agreed to let us choose a blind date for her. So I've chosen Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. You can't get more summery than that.

I am so good at picking these dates for people! I just know Anna will be so pleased. Now for Liz...

Liz: Thinking summer I'll bring the Pimms and a croquet set...and my date will have to be Matthew Mcfadyen as he's Tristan in my novel August Rock and I can't get him out of my head for the moment....such a troubling thing....

Brigid: For summer nothing beats an ice lolly on a hot day, something tangy and sweet.Then trying to finish it before it melts.

Last night #newflame and I were discussing his Mensday Wednesdays in the summer where all the blokes get together and play volleyball and drink beer. Sounds good, yes? So I want to bring shirtless volleyball players as my date(s). I'll share!

Susanna: I'm bringing margaritas for everyone, because they're my favourite summertime drink. One sip of lime and tequila with salt, and the whole world slows down and seems instantly sunnier.

And my date for the party will be Dennis Quaid, because look, he's brought his own surfboard, and at 57 (nearly 58) he's reassuring proof that not all of the men I found hot in my youth have been falling apart as they age. He still has the same abs!

Pia: I'm bringing pickled herring canapes, Swedish style - Swedes always eat pickled herring and especially during the summer, so I thought it might be apt. I'll bring some "snaps" (Swedish way of saying schnapps) too, as the two go together, then we can all get pickled I guess! :)

I'm happy to have a blind date like Anna - how about if the Rock God invites some of his rock band friends? I can think of quite a few singers/guitarists I wouldn't mind meeting.

Julie: Rock gods? Surely that means you would like to have the biggest rock gods of all...Bill and Ted.

Most excellent! (I told you I was brilliant at picking dates for people.)

I'll bring champagne to go with Anna's strawberries. And Robert Downey Jr. Of course.

Five Fast Facts about my book.

Favourite scene in the book:My favourite fun scene is one of my heroine Alice's first days at Eversley Hall dressed as a Regency gentlewoman. She goes for a turn in the garden with another costumed interpreter, Miss Selina Fitzwilliam—the younger sister of the gorgeous Mr James Fitzwilliam—and to their alarm they see Mr Fitzwilliam's spaniel darting into a fountain, where his collar gets stuck in the decorative plants. Alice immediately throws herself into the fountain, rescuing the dog but also soaking her very expensive and historically accurate gown. Mr Fitzwilliam proceeds to rescue Alice, much to the chagrin of the beautiful but bitchy Miss Isabella Grantham. It's sort of my turnabout answer to Colin Firth in that lake.

A scene that made you smile: There's a big portrait of the original Mr James Fitzwilliam in Eversley Hall, and Alice discovers that every day at 2 pm, a rainbow is reflected from the crystal chandelier directly onto Mr Fitzwilliam's crotch. (This is something that we Addicts actually witnessed in the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich. I stole it and put it in the book.)

Character who surprised you the most: I was constantly surprised and delighted by Leo Allingham, who is Alice's ex-husband in real life. He's a bit of a shady character at first but he has such depths to him, and such pain. And he rides a motorcycle.

A scene you hated writing: There is a lot of pain in Alice and Leo's shared past, and that was hard to write about. There is a very short chapter in which they both lose what they love most in the world, and they're unable to share their emotions with each other. It was very difficult to write and I still cry when I read it.

A book your hero probably has on his bookshelf: Well, I sort of have two heroes. Leo Allingham, the real-life hero, would have The Motorcycle Diaries and Mr James Fitzwilliam, the Regency hero, would have Pride and Prejudice.

It's available on Amazon here (UK) and here (US).

What, and who, are you bringing to the party?