Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas is even closer!

Like Liz, I'm rushing around trying to get everything ready in time for Christmas and it's all a bit manic!  I honestly don't know why this happens every year because I always swear I'm going to start earlier/be more prepared/more organised/write better lists etc, but somehow it doesn't work out that way.  But maybe that's part of the fun?  If we were too organised, it wouldn't be so exciting!

I love Christmas, and especially all the preparations beforehand – buying and wrapping presents, cooking, cleaning, decorating – and the 'will we be finished in time' factor adds a certain something to the proceedings.  The special magic of Christmas is that it usually always ends up being all right on the day though, so I've stopped worrying too much about it.  And if the decorations aren't perfect or something's missing from Christmas dinner, does it really matter?  One year we ended up eating just potatoes, vegetables and gravy, because the turkey wasn't cooked (thanks to faulty instructions for a new AGA it was completely raw in the middle - yuck!), but it didn't make Christmas any less fun.  In fact, it's one we remember with lots of laughter now!

So I'm just going to take a deep breath now, tell myself there are still two days to go and plenty of time and I have both my daughters here to help.  They've just decorated this lovely gingerbread house, our tree is up, and we're about to make a special (calorie free, ahem) dessert, so hopefully all is in hand.

Hope your preparations are going well too and I wish you a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and hope 2014 is a brilliant year for all of us!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is almost here…gulp!

Christmas is catching me on the run. I'm still writing cards, buying presents, wrapping presents, buying food, planning menus and decorating…..

Yesterday I finally bought the tree. I was forced into buying a taller one as there were so few left. It always bothers me that I have to pay so much more for a spike that sticks up a foot and that I will need to cut off (we live in a cottage that is around 400 years old = low ceilings). However having had my moan it does look lovely after DD and I decorated while wearing Santa hats and singing at the top of our lungs…

Despite having the tree up I am feeling fraught. I have edits calling to me on A Cornish Stranger yet this time of year passes in a blink of an eye…so this morning I began making...

Aggie's Spiced Fruitcake 

At Christmas time when are all in a flurry of cooking and baking and organising it is wonderful to do something that grounds us and brings us back to a time when things were a little less crazy. For me it is stopping in the rush to make my Great Aunt Agnes' spiced fruit cake. The smell of the fruit and spices boiling wraps itself around me and slows me down just a bit. It reminds me of Christmas' past and also reminds me to treasure the present one. For me Christmas isn't Christmas until I make this cake.

Like all handed down family recipes nothing is exact. This is a wonderful recipe which is quite flexible in its ingredients and is especially useful using slightly old fruit like apples or oranges or satsumas that are just about to go off. 

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and butter several loaf tins or oven proof dishes. I can't say how many because it depends on how much extra fruit you add...

In a large pan add:

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of mixed fruit (this being a US recipes that would mean glacé)
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 stick of butter (I think this is about a 1/4 pound)
(additions - old fresh fruit - apples, oranges etc...can add ginger and allspice)
3 cups of water (although my aunt would sometimes used left over coffee or tea)

The liquid should cover the fruit, if it doesn't add a little more. Bring the fruit to the boil. The scent that will fill the kitchen is divine. Let it simmer for a while - at least ten minutes. I am usually doing many other things so I can't say precisely. Then turn the heat off and let the mixture sit and cool. Sometime I simply cover and leave it over night. When the mixture is cool you can add a little whiskey or brandy.

So when the fruit mixture is cool (it will be quite thick and syrupy) add straight into the same pot slowly, bit by bit and mix with a big spoon:
3 cups of flour
then slowly add 2 teaspoons of baking soda mixed in a tablespoon of hot water

Give the mixture a good mix with a big spoon before pouring into the greased loaf tins.

Bake for about 45 minutes (this depends on the size of your tins) if a knife inserted into them comes out most ly clean they are cooked. 
If the cakes seem dry for any reason - which it shouldn't be - pour a bit more alcohol on it once cool.

For me a piece of the cake is Christmas past and present. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year….

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All You Want for Christmas...

Christmas anthology - release date 19th December 
Kiss from The Kiss Collection - release date 12th December

Are lots of short stories! Yes, you know that is top of your Christmas list. And what is even better is that you get to have these stories EARLY!

It is amazing that at Christmas last year I was unpublished. This year I have had a short story published, one more next week and a Christmas themed anthology published on 19th December.

I feel a little greedy.

I have also been indulging in some promotional madness. I was sent my beautiful Christmas cover and decided it HAD to be my Christmas card this year. Which was all good until the website I was on started tantalising me with other promotional goods that I could have my cover displayed on.

I managed to resist them all except one. The phone cover. I made the mistake of mocking one up with a book cover on it. It looked soooo good but I thought I should check what the other covers looked like. I think I started drooling.

But which one should I have made into an actual phone cover? I sat there flicking between the different versions whilst drinking some wine. Which could explain why I now have three new phone covers due to arrive sometime in the next few days. Ho hum.
Pretty in pink...

This is what they look like from the site…

Never putting phone away
All I Want for Christmas

How cool?!?! I did stop myself from buying a huge pop up banner for each cover so I was reasonably well behaved. Now when I am in coffee shops I will leave my phone face down waiting for comments or hold it up on the Tube for all to see. No one is going to mistake my phone for theirs.

So other than downloading my next kiss, The First Kiss and A Stocking Full of Romance anthology, what else are you wanting for Christmas?

'The First Kiss' is released on 12th December 2013 to pre-order click here
'A Stocking Full of Romance' is released on 19th December 2013 to pre-order click here

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Glamorous Life of an Author

Julie’s post last week made me think about how an author’s life might be perceived by people who don’t know us – glamorous, exciting and rewarding (in both senses of the word)!  While I was still ‘pre-published’, I dreamed of earning huge advances, having launch parties with canapés and champagne (even though I hate the stuff) and perhaps even going to movie premieres as my book was turned into a film.  The reality isn’t quite like that ...

Huge advances are not all they’re cracked up to be – from what I’ve heard anyway.  You might end up not earning out and then having to pay some of it back (even if you’ve already spent it!).  So having a small advance and decent royalties is much to be preferred I think.  That way, you might get a nice surprise if your book is selling well.

I haven’t had a glitzy launch party yet, although I did organise one in a pub for myself once.  No canapés and the ‘bubbly’ wasn’t champagne – just as well, since I scandalise my friends by putting 7Up in mine to make it taste better :-) (Sorry, I know it’s sacrilege!)

And the movie premiere?  Nope, not happened either, but maybe that’s a relief too since I only know two authors who have had their novels turned into movies, one of which bore very little resemblance to the actual book.  If you’re not J K Rowling with the power to vet the script and pick the actors, is it really worth it?  Well, I guess that would depend upon how many squillions of pounds/dollars you were offered.  (Any movie directors out there?  I’m willing to negotiate!)

As Julie said, the everyday life of an author is far from glamorous – slobbing around in your PJ’s or tracksuit bottoms with no make-up and your hair in a mess.  The housework rarely gets done (because there’s this one scene you’ve just got to write first) and the cooking is a bit hit and miss because your characters are talking to you and distracting you.  But none of the above matters because for me it’s the best job in the world – I get to decide my own working hours and routine, I can take a day off any time I want, I don’t have to get up early (yes!) and I can do all sorts of things in the name of research.  Brilliant!

I don’t care about the advances, parties or movie premiers either, as long as I’m allowed to make a living out of telling stories, in my own time, on my terms.  The thrill of holding a copy of my own book in my hands is all the reward I need (although of course it’s nice to be paid too!) - that is the great reality of being an author.  Anything else would just be a nice bonus (ok, a very nice bonus!)

Happy first Sunday of Advent, everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The clothes maketh the writer

Yesterday morning, I was accosted by a mother in the playground, asking for help with the PTA Christmas Fair. "I'm trying to ask people who don't have a job," she said to me, and from the way she immediately backed off, it was clear that my expression must have been pretty murderous. It was just as well, before she got the tirade that was me asking her just what part of writing novels, stories, articles and cartoons under three names, selling them and promoting them, and running my own creative writing tutoring business was NOT HAVING A JOB.

Then I looked at myself. I was wearing sweatpants with holes in them, dirty trainers, and a hat to cover my unbrushed hair. I had no makeup on and under my coat, I was wearing my pyjama top. (Unlike Susanna Kearsley, I do not get dressed to take my kid to school.) I looked like someone who was going to go straight back home and go to bed—which, to be fair, was exactly what I did do, although I then proceeded to write 3000 words in that same bed. Compared to the other parents, many of whom looked very smart, and most of whom had actually bothered to get themselves dressed, I looked like someone who really did have a LOT of time to help out with the PTA Christmas Fair, and would be glad of the chance of something productive to do to get me out of the clutches of daytime telly, thank you very much.

I dress up for parties and for meetings and conferences, to teach and to appear on television or even on the radio, but I don't dress up to write. I wear old jumpers and socks with holes in them, worn slippers and pencils in my hair to keep it out of my eyes.

Ralph Keyes, in THE COURAGE TO WRITE (one of my favourite writing books), looks at the dressing or non-dressing habits of successful writers. Keats, for example, did not like to write until he had on a clean shirt and had 'adonised' himself. Disreali wrote in evening clothes. John Cheever, on the other hand, put on a clean suit every morning, went to his writing room, and then took it off so he could write in his underwear. Victor Hugo forbade his valet to allow him any clothes until he'd achieved his word count for the day.

Keyes suggests that clothing rituals are like writers' other rituals, designed to keep The Fear at bay. Personally, I think my habitual writing state of deshabille is down to my being lazy, but maybe it's a form of discipline: I can't go to another parent's house for a cup of tea, or nip into town to do some shopping, or indeed help out with the PTA if I'm still basically in my pyjamas. All I'm really dressed to do is to sleep, or to write, so I'm not tempted to do anything else.

Or maybe it's just being lazy.

What about you? What do you wear on your writing days?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Work in Progress

For today, I thought I'd share an excerpt from the rough manuscript of the current book I'm working on: A Desperate Fortune, due out in the early part of 2015.

As sometimes happens when I'm writing, characters from other books can wander in and join the conversation unexpectedly and wander off again. In this case, one of them was let in for a cameo appearance that I thought might be a few lines and perhaps a cup of tea — instead she settled in and took charge of the scene and changed my heroine's entire course in life.

So here's the moment where they meet each other.

The woman she was facing looked to be about her own age, slender and of middle height, with features that could not have been called beautiful and yet held a vivacity that made them pretty—lively eyes lit with a keen intelligence beneath arched eyebrows the same dark brown colour as the curling hair that had been swept up from her face and neatly fastened underneath a plain lace pinner.
Mary cleared her throat and said, ‘I do apologize.’
‘That’s quite all right. I used to hide behind chairs often as a child. The trick is keeping back so that your shoes are out of sight.’
‘I wasn’t hiding. I was…Frisk had lost his ball, you see, and I was only trying to retrieve it when you…Well,’ she finished, knowing how ridiculous it sounded.
‘Are you French?’ the woman asked, her head tipped slightly to one side as though she were trying to place Mary’s accent. ‘Or Irish?’
‘My father was Scottish, my mother was French.’ She remembered her manners and put out her hand as she stepped round the settee and forced herself forwards. ‘I’m Mary Dundas, Mistress Jamieson.’ And having properly got through the more formal greeting she said, ‘I’ll just…go. I should go.’
‘Nonsense. You were here first. You were writing,’ observed Mistress Jamieson, looking down now at the journal and pen on the table where Mary had earlier sat.
‘It was nothing of importance,’ Mary said, aware how foolish any chronicle of her ‘adventures’ would appear to this young woman who, from all the evidence, was living one herself; for if in truth the other woman, Mrs. Farrand, had been taken and arrested as a spy, then stepping in to carry messages across the Channel in her place in such a time of danger called for courage of a kind that Mary could not hope to claim.
She could but marvel at the realization that this young woman, although near to her in age, was so beyond her in experience and confidence. And energy, she added, as she watched while Mistress Jamieson began to move about the room with Frisk an ever-bouncing bundle at the hemline of her gown.
‘Indeed,’ Mistress Jamieson said as she trailed a hand over the spines of the books on one shelf, ‘so few women write anything, that when one does it can never be deemed unimportant.’

If you write, has a character ever surprised you with how they took over a scene? And as readers, do you enjoy seeing a character cross from one book to another?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spin the Bottle - Launch Party for Brigid's 'The Last Kiss'

IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED!! It is the publication day of my first short story from The Kiss Collection, 'The Last Kiss'.

As is traditional here at the Heroine Addicts we are holding a party. The bunting has been hung, the champagne is on ice and we have plates of nibbles. 

As my short stories are all kiss themed, I have decided we're going to have a massive game of SPIN THE BOTTLE!!

Oh yes, people. This is going to get smoochy.

It was tough to decide who to bring to the party - I've let all my fellow heroine addicts invite people, I've brought along a few extra.

So currently we are sitting in a large circle. I've had to stop Julie from pre-empting the spin the bottle party and Christina had to be untangled from someone else's long hair!

I've also put some cushions in the closet for our later game of seven minutes in heaven...

Now let me just get this going *Julie nicks the bottle and starts spinning the bottle*

Or not...

Ahhh so the bottle is pointing at this lovely gentleman.

Ben Wishaw - lucky Julie!

I never knew Julie could crawl that fast. Oh, she's now sitting in his lap and smooching. And... ok I don't think we need to see this. Down, girl!

Sorry about that, had to peel her off him.

OK now my... *Anna snatches the bottle and starts to spin it* turn? Bugger.

Ahhh the bottle is slowing down, wobbling between two of our fine guests...

Thor! - Anna's in Valhalla
Anna, shouting "Get in there!" and launching yourself at poor Chris Helmsworth is quite scary. Oh that is really not something I need to see. Can someone get her back here? Thanks, Ben.

Right, people this is my party and I'm going to... *Susanna sweeps in and spins the bottle* FINE! You go.

That is a very professionally spun bottle, I think Susanna has done this before. Ooo now that is a fine figure of a man.

Max Martini - He's got Susanna shaken AND stirred
Man, Susanna pretty much tackled him. He's down but looking at that lip action he isn't out. Erm... Susanna, it isn'y seven minutes in heaven yet. Susanna! You lot are no use. Back in your place, young lady.


Now... LIZ! PUT DOWN THAT BOTTLE! DON'T YOU... *bottle is a blur from Liz's enthusiastic spin* This was my party! Fine. Whatever.

Benedict is only Liz's for the night (so generous)

Liz be gentle with him... he's only on loan. Don't wear those lips out. And no touching... I don't care that you are an award winner. PUT HIM DOWN!

OK at long last *cracks knuckles* If someone could pass me the bottle? No! Not to Christina! *bottle spins sleekly* I hate you all.

Captain Hook has his hook in Christina

Looks like Christina's caught herself a pirate... I never knew Captain Hook could be that good looking but Colin O'Donoghue could definitely convert me. I don't think he knew what hit him there... Christina, do you really think you should be doing THAT in public?

Sorry about that, had to pour some cold water over them both.

*grabs the bottle*


*spins the bottle in a calculating way*


Happy Publication day to me!!

A brief interlude....

Oh this is a lovely party. Bring a guest and spin the bottle. Tell us about it in the comments.

Brigid's Short Story is available here

'Piognant, funny, realistic yet romantic, these stories make you relive the good times and sigh over the sad ones. I loved them.' - Katie Fforde
First kisses are the ones that every one celebrates, the ones you remember. The ones you hope to treasure as it happened, storing up your memories to take out and relive.
But what about the last kiss?

The first in The Kiss Collection, an exciting new series of short stories from Brigid Coady & HarperImpulse.
How pretty...
*Please note this is a short story, approx. 1000 words in length designed for reading on your mobile phone or tablet.*

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Festival of Romance and Our Award Winner!

I’ve just come back from this year’s Festival of Romance, held in the centre of Bedford at various venues (all thankfully within walking distance of each other) and it’s been a great weekend – mostly because our own Liz Fenwick won the Reader Award for Best Romantic Read with her novel A Cornish Affair!  It was extra exciting because I got to read out the result and present her with the award, which felt very special :-)  So huge congratulations to Liz from all of us!

Liz and Christina at the Romance Fair
I should really start at the beginning though - here in the UK we are not spoilt for choice when it comes to romance festivals and/or conventions, like authors are in the US for example.  Here, the FoR is it.  Literally.  So as an avid romance/romantic fiction fan, as well as an author, I was very keen to be there and support it – any event that celebrates romance sounds great to me!  And it was huge fun – a varied programme of events, talks, workshops and, of course, the awards ball.

The festival kicked off on Friday night with an Art and Romance Evening at the newly opened Higgins Museum, where attendees were given a quick tour before the serious business of author readings began.  There were some fascinating pieces of furniture – both Georgian/Regency and Arts & Crafts painted pieces – all of which I would have loved to own!  The readings were by authors of historical novels and I was one of them.  We’d come dressed in period costume and my outfit was that of an ordinary woman of the 1640s.  Not very easy to wear while reading anything out loud, I have to say, as the bodice was kind of tight!

Liz and the other shortlistees in her category
Saturday was super busy, with a Romance Fair running all day where we set up stalls to sell our books and various other bits and pieces.  Several talks and author panels, plus readings from authors, went on during the day, and some of us were also running workshops.

The finale was the awards ball though, where the winners and runners-up were cheered on by an enthusiastic audience.  And this was when our Liz triumphed – woohoo!

I do hope the Festival of Romance can keep going as we need more romance/romantic fiction events in the UK and I’m already looking forward to next year’s!